Log: Cetaceans on the Frontier Survey 2009

31st Aug 2009 Survey Ended: Cetaceans on the Frontier Survey 2009

Area: Porcupine Bank & NW Shelf Slopes.

Agency: IWDG/GMIT/Marine Institute

Ship: Celtic Explorer


31st August 2009

We arrived at Galway docks at 02:00hrs this morning. At 8am we began unloading gear and equipment, including the IWDG RIB. By midday we were on our way back to our various destinations. We achieved a lot during the trip and over the next few months our job will be to analyse the data and make some sense of the survey results. The use of a towed hydrophone greatly enhanced our survey and allowed us to detect deep diving species, especially sperm whales, which we would otherwise not have detected. The level of sperm whale activity in the canyons was high and in general these canyon systems appear to have a high level of cetacean activity when compared with adjacent habitat.

We also succeeded in collecting useful data for a number of collaborative projects including bottlenose dolphin vocalisations for a study in University College Cork, plankton and jelly data for the Coastal Marine Resources Centre, also at UCC and towed hydrophone data for a PhD study into beaked whales at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. Useful seabird distribution data was collected for the National Parks and Wildlife Service and we managed to deploy the M6 weather buoy… not a bad two weeks… despite some of the worst August weather seen in a long time.

So a big thank you to Captain Denis Rowan and the crew of the Celtic Explorer for their help and professionalism during the course of the survey and to the Marine Institute for providing access to the ship through the National Marine Research Vessels Ship-Time Grant Aid Programme 2009.

And of course to the 19 scientists, technicians and filmmakers who made up the crew of the 2009 Cetaceans on the Frontier Survey…

The Cetaceans on the Frontier 2009 Cruise Report is available to download. Click Here - PDF 4.6Mb.

30th August 2009

The day was spent steaming for Galway Bay. Survey conditions were poor with rain and fog. The only sightings of the day were two groups of common dolphins (15 animals) and a single sunfish. Dolphin clicks and whistles were detected frequently on the hydrophone. The day was spent cleaning up and packing gear as well as preparing cruise data and reports.

29th August 2009

Today we arrived on station, west of the Porcupine Bank in order to deploy a new M6 Weather Buoy and to retrieve the old one. The weather was calm with a sea state of 3-4 and low swell. During the course of the day the new buoy was deployed and on its mooring we attached another Deep C-POD at 500m water depth. This POD will log the cetacean activity in a very different habitat type to the one we deployed in the canyon, for out here the water depth is over 3,200m deep. We won't see the results from this POD until the M6 Buoy is next retrieved, possibly some time in 2010.

On the cetacean front large whales ruled the day and 4 large whales were seen blowing around the ship during the day, suggesting some sort of movement of these animals (most likely fin whales), as the ship remained within the one area all day. A small group of common dolphin were also seen during the day. After the buoy work was completed we conducted a deep-water CTD and plankton station with good results and a number of small violet jellyfish and some small deep-sea fish that we had not seen before on this trip.

Once the work was complete we started our long steam back to Galway Docks. The distance of over 240miles will take us

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