Searching at Sandy Point: Day 2

Jasmine Lees
Thursday 2 March 2023

If you told me that Abaco has a different sun from every other place on this earth, I would believe you. From the moment it rose that morning and greeted us with its warm rays, I think it somehow knew that the rest of the day would be special for us unassuming students. At 7:30 a.m. we had an amazing and hearty breakfast cooked by the wonderful Chef Shervilla as school children dressed in their colorful uniforms shuffled past us to go about their day, a little differently than ours but, ultimately to achieve the same results: new expanded minds. 

We headed to Charlotte and Diane’s lovely home and prepared their vessels for our trip that day. My crew left on the Steno with Diane at around 9:20 am, heading to Rocky Point. Meanwhile, the Sima crew, captained by Charlotte and Julie, headed North to listen for sperm whales as we made plans to join them if they picked up on anything.

For a whole hour neither teams sighted anything interesting. The Sima crew made plans to join us at Rocky Point shortly before we saw what would kick off our spectacular marine mammal adventure that day: Four dolphins, including one calf. We marveled at the sight of them, taking photos, videos, and recordings using the hydrophone that was quickly set up by Vincent. Very shortly after, as if our luck couldn’t get any better, they were joined by three more dolphins, including one who looked super intense because its dorsal fin was almost completely gone from what Diane said was a shark attack when it was younger. The pack of seven had us heading back to Sandy Point in order to keep up with them until we got some very interesting news over the radio.

The Sima crew told us they heard sperm whale clicks and were heading North East. This caused us to pause for a moment until they tuned in to say that that they actually saw them, three glorious sperm whales. The race was on.

Once in the area, we spotted one (Jasmine’s good eye, always reliable, caught it first) and we started tracking it whilst it surfaced for about 13 minutes before it fluked heading North. This moment was quite historical. For all four of us crew members it was the first time we had ever seen a sperm whale and for three out of that four, it was our first time seeing any species of whale ever. From afar, it’s dark blue glistening figure looked to be a bit smaller than average (which it was) but the whale was very lenient at the time and allowed our boat to be in close proximity with it. Vincent informed us that the situation was less than ideal, however, as it is best to see how these whales behave in the wild without human activity as a prominent factor. I agree completely but, seeing the size of that sperm whale up close was life changing for me. It was larger than the boat which gave me too many terrifying thoughts on the possible sizes of other sperm whales in the environment that possessed larger proportions (keep in mind that their average size is around 78.7 feet or 24 meters). Vincent also told us about how a sperm whale can specifically be identified by its blow which, unlike other whales, shoots to left and at angle due to the fact that its blowhole is in that same unique position on its head.

To top off all the excitement, both teams decided that we should end the day with a little snorkel excursion at a reef near a dock often used by offensively gigantic Disney cruises (thankfully, none were docked when we went). Our crew got there first and anchored the boat before suiting up in our rash guards and snorkeling gear. Once everyone was at the spot and ready to begin exploring, we jumped right in. Diane was telling my crew about this reef earlier and made sure to mention its best feature which I saw with my very own eyes. Amongst the beautiful burnt orange and yellow colors of the coral (fire coral,*DNT, being a big contributor to this), was a hauntingly beautiful ship that wrecked around 40 years ago. We swam around and above it, simply taking in all its cracks and rust covered holes that served as shelter for fish and coral alike in the environment.

Once done, everyone headed back home, with our crew stopping along the way to pick up a noticeable empty floating bleach bottle that severely stood out against the almost perfect oceanic landscape but, served as a reminder of why the work we’re doing is so incredibly important.

The day ended with a delicious dinner, featuring a spicy ghost pepper conch salad that some dinner guests were amusingly unprepared for, and more interesting  presentations by Grace, Le’Andra, Rosie and I. After dinner, as a bonus, my fellow students pointed out how Venus and Jupiter could be seen twinkling in the sky that night, looking down on us as we slept in preparation for whatever adventures the next day would bring.

Written by Sari Symonette (University of The Bahamas)

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