Data Deep Dive
We awoke on Saturday morning, sun peeking through the blinds of Pete & Gay’s and a much welcomed breeze passing through the nearby dock. Another warm, hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs and, now a trip staple, homemade french toast prepped us for the day ahead. Today, given the slightly-too-windy conditions out at sea, we will be spending time on our personal research projects, as well as sifting through the photo ID and recording data collected during our bottlenose dolphin and sperm whale encounters on Wednesday and Thursday.
After breakfast, the group strolled from the dock along the shoreline towards Charlotte and Diane’s house. The wind helped to keep the pesky sand flies away, which have made a meal of us since our arrival at Sandy Point, and kept us cool in the growing Bahamian heat. The beautiful water provided a refreshing dip for our toes, and the sand was littered with beautiful shells, including the infamous Queen Conch. Conch shells are illegal to take out of the country, but many of the other small shells we’ve collected we’ll be making their way back to the UK as souvenirs or to make jewellery.
Upon our arrival, we were welcomed into Charlotte and Diane’s office, where Le’Andra was carefully matching the sperm whale fluke images taken on Thursday with BMMRO’s vast image database, dating all the way back to 1997. Diane walked us through this database, and demonstrated to us the thorough photo ID matching process. It was fascinating not only to see the images from all the encounters they’ve had with animals over the last 25 years, but also the post-encounter effort involved in ensuring all data collected is recorded and catalogued efficiently and effectively.
By mid-morning, everyone had found their respective spot to work. Some chose to work on their blog posts, others on photo ID, and most on their research projects. Since Vincent and Julie are the project supervisors for the majority of students here, various one-to-one meetings were held throughout the day to discuss project progress and next steps. At lunch, Tristan prepared a simple yet fulfilling tomato pasta dish for everyone to enjoy, fuelling us for the rest of the day’s work ahead.
The rest of the afternoon consisted mostly of individual project work and meetings with Julie and Vincent, who supervise all the University of St. Andrews students on the trip. With such a busy trip, many of us have fallen slightly behind with our project work and so were relieved to receive feedback and lay out clear next steps upon our arrival back in Scotland. Our day-long efforts were rewarded with a fascinating talk about the collection of cetacean bones housed by Charlotte and Diane, and a short stroll back along the beach towards Pete & Gay’s for the dinner at Nancy’s, the neighbouring restaurant, that awaited us.
The sunset at Nancy’s beachside bar and restaurant was breathtaking, and the hospitality unforgettable. The food was typical of Bahamian cuisine; generous portioning yet absolutely delicious. With some opting for fish fingers, vegetarian sides, and even lobster, we were spoilt for choice. Our post-dinner activities involved an insightful talk by Sari on Bahamian folklore (including the Lusca; a half-shark half-octopus creature that is said to lurk the depths of blue holes across the Bahamian islands), and dancing of all kinds including the electric slide, the macarena, and even a ceilidh! The night passed by filled with laughter and ridiculous dance moves in fantastic company, ending our final night in The Bahamas in the best way possible.
Written by Jasmine Lees (University of St. Andrews)