Storm Helene, Risso’s Dolphins & Leaving Faial

Ola! Sorry for the radio silence! It’s been a busy few days since I last posted on Friday, but the good news is we got through Storm Helene damage free! We actually ended up spending a night in a hotel in Horta to avoid the storm, and I don’t think any of us were complaining about the comfy beds or continental breakfast. 

Over Saturday & Sunday, the 4 groups worked with the University of Azores sampling plastics in Porto Pim Beach, which I mentioned in a previous blog post. My group, Daimler, collected plastics after the worst of Storm Helene was over and the aftermath was awful. Some parts of thebeach seemed to be more plastic than sand! 

Charlotte and Becky filtering microplastics from sand using a sieve. 

The aftermath of Storm Helene. 

After collecting plastics, we took them back to the lab to organise them into categories (such as pellets, fishing equipment etc), size & colour. I can’t tell you how gruelling and long-winded this process was, and I definitely don’t envy the scientists doing this every month. 

Monday was then spent on a research vessel for the University of Azores, catching fish through long-lining & dissecting them to extract their otoliths, a small bone in the ear. In the lab, these otoliths are then analysed to tell us more about the age of the fish being caught.

We spent yesterday on a whale monitoring and IDing trip, which was absolutely breathtaking. We started the morning with a pod of 20-25 Risso’s dolphins, identifiable by the white scratches that appear on them after interactions with other individuals. These can be used to age the dolphins, as the older the dolphin is, the more scratches will show & therefore the whiter they will appear.

We were also lucky enough to see sperm whales galore, including 3 mother and calf pairs (2 of which were only a couple of weeks old!). Watching the mother and calf dive together was an amazing experience, and one I feel so privileged to have witnessed. I couldn’t resist sharing a video I managed to capture of that moment.

I can’t thank the university enough for taking us on this breathtaking experience, and it’s certainly one i’ll never forget! 

We are now packing up our tents and saying goodbye to Faial island as we move back to Ponta Delgada, and it honestly feels like leaving home. The whole island has shown us such a warm welcome, especially the restaurant nearby & it’s sad to be moving on after such an amazing experience. Of course we had to leave our mark in Horta, where people paint small murals on the wall.

As per usual I’ve put the links to the instagram, twitter and facebook pages below; feel free to check them out!!

Facebook

Instagram

Twitter

See you in Ponta Delgada!! 

-Rhiannon

ra420    September 19th, 2018    Azores

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