SPERM WHALES – BMMRO FIELD TRIP, BAHAMAS


Sperm Whales, Bahamas (BMMRO)

SPERM WHALES – BMMRO FIELD TRIP, BAHAMAS

I can never quite get my head around the fact that the waters around Abaco are home to the twin leviathans, sperm whales and humpback whales. And before anyone points it out, I realise they can’t actually be twins: sperms whales (cachelots) are TOOTHED WHALES whereas humpback whales are BALEEN WHALES

Sperm Whales, Bahamas (BMMRO)

During November, the Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation (BMMRO) undertook a rather special field trip. Using sophisticated devices, the scientists first located a group of sperm whales, and then tracked them through the night using the communications between the creatures – ‘vocalisations’ – to follow them. Later analysis of the recordings will have made it possible to identify the individuals through their unique vocal patterns – and so to recognise them again. 

Sperm Whale, Bahamas (BMMRO)

The hydrophonic equipment used is extremely sensitive, and can pick up the sounds made by whales and dolphins over a great distance. The box of tricks looks deceptively modest – I took these photos on a previous trip when we were looking for beaked whales and dolphins. Charlotte Dunn holds the microphone submerged on a cable and underwater sounds are amplified so that the slightest chirrup of a dolphin can be heard by everyone on the vessel. The sounds are recorded and locations carefully logged.

Besides the sperm whales, the BMMRO team also had sightings of spotted dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and beaked whales during the field trip. These bonus sightings will also have been logged for future reference. It all adds to the detailed research data that assists the conservation of the prolific marine mammal life in Bahamian waters.

Atlantic Spotted DolphinsAtlantic Spotted Dolphins, Bahamas (BMMRO)

By the time one of the whales decided to breach, it was some distance away, so I’m afraid I can’t bring you a dramatic close-up from the trip. But just to see this view at all is breathtaking.

All photos BMMRO except the 2 hydrophone ones on the research boat (Keith Salvesen)

4 thoughts on “SPERM WHALES – BMMRO FIELD TRIP, BAHAMAS

  1. What a blast! Oh, to be on that boat listening to the underwater mammals, coming upon all those different species, what a thrill this must have been. I heard myself gasping a few times as I read the species you saw…sperm whales and bottlenose dolphin, wow. Thanks for taking us along, RH.

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    • The listening is an extraordinary experience, Jet. It’s a whole underwater conversation going on, with each animal having its own distinctive sound patterns that can be distinguished by sonograph. They are probably talking about humans and how fascinating they are with their scuba gear and hi-tech equipment – so cute!

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  2. How far were you from abaco This is awesome thanks for sharing Shirley

    On Tue, 28 Nov 2017 at 1:30 PM ROLLING HARBOUR ABACO wrote:

    > Rolling Harbour posted: ” SPERM WHALES – BMMRO FIELD TRIP, BAHAMAS I can > never quite get my head around the fact that the waters around Abaco are > home to the twin leviathans, sperm whales and humpback whales. And before > anyone points it out, I realise they can’t actually be twi” >

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    • Hi Shirley, the research trip was centered on the North-west Providence Channel – basically deep water that lies from south of Sandy Point (quite close to land) north-west across to Grand Bahama. So yes, sperm whales live in Abaco waters!

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