Tuesday, June 29, 2010

First beaked whale sighting of the year

Today we were lucky enough to have many species during the day, including our first beaked whales of the season!! Although it was a brief encounter it might indicate the beginning of a prosperous summer season!!

And the species list for today is:
Common dolphin

Despite not being cetaceans, there are other species that we were also fortunate to see, like loggerhead turtles, flying fish and an unidentified species of shark!

A great day for whale and dolphin watching, with a lot of extra species as a bonus!!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

6 cetacean species in one day

Today we had a great day on the water. On both our morning and afternoon whale watching tours we saw 4 cetacean species; giving us a total of 6 different species for the day. In the morning we saw common dolphins, Risso's dolphins, pilot whales, and a very familiar large male sperm whale that we call "Mr Liable". In the afternoon we saw Mr Liable again, common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, and striped dolphins. On both tours we were also lucky to see some interesting behaviour including a lot of socialising, high leaps from all dolphin species, and lobtailing (tail slapping). In the morning we also observed an interesting interaction between the pilot whales and Risso's dolphins, which included a lot of fast surface movements, lobtailing, and leaps from both species.

Striped dolphins travelling very fast

Pilot whales

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A day in the office doing photo-ID

The weather has been very miserable and rainy all day today, so unfortunately we have not been able to go out on the water. However, this has given us the chance to sort and analyse our most recent photographs and encounter data that we have collected during tours in the previous few weeks of good weather. It is important that we collect as much information as possible on the animals that we see during our trips. In particular, we record the position of animals and take ID photographs to help us understand more about the occurence and movements of whales and dolphins around the islands. In the last few weeks we have been seeing and photographing many sperm whales in the area. By comparing our recent sperm whale ID photographs to our catalogue of known individuals we were able to find 3 matches today:

This is one of our known individuals "Mr Liable" that was here at least two days last week. He is a large adult male that we have seen many times in the past 4 years at least, so we have got to know him very well.

We can recognise sperm whales by the natural marks along the trailing edge of their tail flukes (just like our finger prints). This is the tail of "Mr Liable!"

As the summer goes on we hope to see more of our resident sperm whales. We hope to see you here so you can come and see our resident whales and dolphins for yourself...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Good sea but poor visibility

One of our zodiac boats with common dolphins

Our catamaran "Quatro Ventos"

The weather was good today. Sunny, but with some mist. With these conditions it is very difficult for our vigia (onshore lookout) to spot animals far fromt he coastline. The colors of the land and the sky were the same greyish-blue colour: a problem when someone is trying to spot something with big binoculars. On both of our tours today we ended up with pilot whales, Risso’s dolphins and common dolphins. In the end it was another day of good sightings, even with poor visiblity!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Great news update for whales!!!

ENCOURAGING NEWS UPDATE - The IWC has rejected a controversial proposal to allow commercial whaling

We are very relieved to hear that the IWC's (International Whaling Commision) controversial proposal to legalise commercial whaling has failed.

This would not have been possible without the support of thousands of people all over the world who voiced their opposition to the proposal through hundreds-of-thousands of phone calls, emails, letters, postcards, and petition signatures.

The following link is to a press release from IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare):

You can also view an interview from Sea Shepherd Conservation Society:

This is a great step forward! Although whaling has not been legalised and re-enforced by the IWC Japan, Norway, and Iceland continue whaling throughout the world's oceans so we need to continue the pressure on those countries to stop these activities. In addition to whaling, many marine species including whales and dolphins face human-caused threats including:

  • POLLUTION: chemical pollution, marine litter and noise pollution (the constant sound of ship engines, underwater construction and oil exploration can drown out whale communication calls. Additionally, extreme sound levels can be potentially deadly for cetaceans).
  • FISHING: over-fishing has led to a decline in food recources for some species and fishing methods lead to high levels of mortality through bycatch (especially dolphins, turtles and seabirds)
  • SHIP STRIKE: large ships and vessels that often strike and injure or kill marine mammals
  • Whale calls which used to span entire oceans are drowned out by the constant sound of ship engines, underwater construction and oil exploration.
  • CLIMATE CHANGE: scientists are still exploring the many ways that climate change could affects whales, and us all.
If you are concerned please stay informed by following the efforts of conservation groups such as IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare), Sea Shepherd conservation society, and WDCS (Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society).

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Pilot whales, sperm whales, and dolphins

The last few days at sea have been very good. The weather has been great and the water has been calm and clear. Today and yesterday we have been viewing a pod of pilot whales in the area. Recently we have also seen a lot of sperm whales, bottlenose dolphins, common dolphins, and even striped dolphins. The clear waters have been perfect for swimming. Here are some recent photos:

Swimming with the beautiful common dolphins

Two sperm whales - synchronised dive

Very large sperm whale

Pilot whales

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

72 hours left to Stop Whale Killing!

72 hours left to Stop Whale Killing!

Here is an e-mail that we received. This message concerns everyone that wants to do something to help save the whales of our world!! A petition that has been started and now that already has the support of 900,000 people!!

Read it and sign it to!

"900,000 of us against whale killing! The pressure is working but the next 72hrs are crucial, let's get to 1 million! Forward this message to everyone you know:

Dear friends,

The international vote that could legalize commercial whale hunting is hours away. 900,000 of us have signed the petition, and an Avaaz team is on the ground -- let's super-charge this campaign by hitting 1 million signatures! 

In one week, the International Whaling Commission will hold its final vote on a proposal to legalize commercial whale hunting for the first time in a generation.

The outcome rests on whose voices are heard most clearly in the final hours: the pro-whaling lobby -- or the world's people?

More than 900,000 of us have signed the petition to protect whales -- let's get to 1 million!!

At the whale summit in Morocco, an Avaaz team is setting up billboards, front-page newspaper ads, and a giant, constantly-updating petition counter -- all to ensure that delegates, from the moment they step off the plane until they cast their votes, will see from our explosive numbers that the world will not accept legal whale slaughter.

Click to sign, and forward this email to everyone:


Thanks to the worldwide outcry, many governments have already pledged to oppose the proposal. Each time the Avaaz whale petition added 100,000 signatures, it was sent again to the IWC and key governments -- some of them thanked us, and Australia's environment minister is set to accept the petition personally in the midst of the tense talks.

But pressure from the other side has been relentless -- a newspaper investigation has triggered revelations about Japan effectively bribing small nations with aid. Other governments, especially in Europe and Latin America, could abstain... or even support the proposal. The vote could go either way.

Citizen pressure is our best hope -- and it's working. The whaling lobby expected to win easily, but thanks to actions like ours, champions of the ban are standing strong. It was an explosive worldwide social movement in the 1980s that led to the commercial whaling ban we're now protecting. Now civil society access to the talks is being limited, so this powerful petition campaign is a vital channel of worldwide pressure in the final 72 hours of negotiations.

Let's deliver 1 million signatures inside the talks before it's too late! -- sign now and spread the word:


After the global ban was first implemented on commercial whaling, the number of whales killed each year plummeted from 38,000 per year to just a couple of thousand. It's a testament to the power of humanity to move forward. As we move to confront the other crises of the modern age, let's cherish this legacy of progress -- by joining together now to protect our majestic and intelligent neighbors on this fragile planet.
With hope,

Ben, Ben M, Maria Paz, Ricken, Benjamin, David, Graziela, Luis, and the whole Avaaz team

P.S.: Despite the ban, Japan, Norway, and Iceland have continued whaling -- and are now pushing to make the IWC proposal as lenient as possible. Expecting permission to catch more whales than ever, Japan is reportedly planning to buy its largest whaling ship yet. Click here to sign the petition against commercial whaling!


IWC Voting on Whale Hunting Moratorium Next Week

"IWC whaling proposal 'offensive'", New Zealand Herald

"Flights, girls and cash buy Japan whaling votes" - a new exposé by the Times of London

The other side: IWC Chairman defends whaling proposal

"Nations Push To Develop New Whale-based Products" - anticipating the end of the whaling ban, whaling nations planning whale-based products including golf balls and detergent.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer days with whales

The good weather has finally arrived. The Azores now has a high pressure system over the islands and this means goooood weather, with sun. For us this means we have the perfect conditions to go to sea, to visit the whales and dolphins. Today we had some wonderfull tours swimming with dolphins and watching dolphins and sperm whales.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A nice weekend with sperm whales

This past weekend we had some very nice summer weather. With these great conditions we keep going out to the sea to observe the cetaceans of the Azores. In the weekend we had two tours and on both occasions we encountered sperm whales and dolphins. These are the kind of summer days that we love in the Azores.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sperm whales and common dolphins again

Today in the morning were sighted a couple of sperm whales and a huge group of common dolphins. The sperm whales were two males and the biggest of them was a well-known male that we call Mr. Liable. This large male has been seen for at least the past 4 years off the coast of São Miguel Island. The common dolphins were a lot of fun because the water was still like a mirror and we could see the dolphins very well through the water. The group contained a couple of tiny calves that melted everybody's hearts.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Many sperm whales and dolphins

A lot of sperm whales today!!! both in the morning or in the afternoon. We even encountered our often sighted big male: Mr. Liable throughout the whole day!

One of the big sperm whales we saw today, and this one is easily recognized by the light patch in front of the dorsal fin

Not only the sperm whales showed up but also the common dolphins were there to amuse us with their jumps and acrobatic moves.

Aboard the new boat, the "4 Ventos" catamaran. Some guests were amused with the dolphins and enjoyed the privileged view from the bow of the boat

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Eventful week at Futurismo

The past week has been very eventful and exiting for the Futurismo team. We have had some very good tours that included sightings of our resident sperm whales, bottlenose dolphins, common dolphins and Risso's dolphins. In some of our tours migrating fin whales and sei whales were seen as well. During the last few days we have also celebrated two new events: the launching of our new catamaran and the beginning of our summer sunset tours. Here is some more information and photos from the highlights of the past week:

Sunset tour, 11th June:

This evening we had our first sunset tour for the summer season. Our sunset trips are aimed to be very relaxing. We cruise towards the sunset at a leisurely pace, allowing our passengers to soak in the views of the rugged coastline while enjoying some local Azorean refreshments. The highlight of the trip is of course to see the sky light up in brilliant shades of yellow, orange, pink and red, as the sun disappears from view beyond the ocean horizon. The sunset did not disappoint us on this trip! We actually got more than we were hoping for: within minutes of leaving the marina we came across a very active group of bottlenose dolphins. Here are some photos from the tour:

Our passengers were very exited to see a large group of bottlenose dolphins within minutes of leaving the marina

Some shots taken during different phases of the gorgeous sunset

Launching of our catamaran, the latest edition to our fleet - 9th June:

On the 9th of June we hosted a special evening to celebrate the launching of our new catamaran. This new edition to our fleet will be used to run tours alongside our smaller boats. Our new catamaran allows a greater degree of comfort while travelling over the sea, so that a greater diversity of people have the opportunity to come whale watching with us. As well as comfort, the spacious upper deck of this boat offers excellent viewing opportunities and ease of maneuverability aboard to give the best possible view. Our evening ended with a special tour to give our special guests and film crew a taste of what it's like to cruise aboard our catamaran:

Boarding the catamaran "Quatros ventos"

Cruising out of the marina

All of our special guests and crew enjoyed the atmosphere on the upper viewing deck

We returned back to a glowing warm sunset over Ponta Delgada

Some photos from our regular whale watch tours this week:
Here are just a few more photos of some of the great encounters that we had this week. The last two days have been especially great for viewing Risso's dolphins:

One of our boats watching Risso's dolphins

The last two days we have been lucky enough to encounter a relatively large group of at least 12 Risso's dolphins

Last but not least: some common dolphins racing alongside our boat

Friday, June 4, 2010

2 more days of great sightings: 3 whale and 3 dolphin species

Earlier this week the weather was pretty disappointing  However, in the last 2 days we have been blessed with a return to summer weather and some great cetacean sightings. During these 2 days we have seen 3 species of dolphin (bottlenose dolphins, common dolphins, and striped dolphins) and 3 species of whale (sperm whales, a fin whale, and a blue whale). Today was an especially gorgeous day and the water was nice and clear. This afternoon our dolphin-swimming passengers enjoyed a swim with our resident bottlenose dolphins, while the whale watching-passengers encountered common dolphins, sperm whales, and a large blue whale that was also seen in the morning. It has been a very good year to see baleen whales here in the Azores, including quite a few of the very endangered blue whales. Judging from the reddish-brown krill-coloured patches left behind by some of these whales, they have been feeding successfully in the area. Because of the feeding dives that some of these whales have been undertaking, we have been lucky to see blue whale flukes a few times this season (it is normally not common for us to see a blue whale's tail!). Today was one of these lucky days...we saw the blue whale fluking in both the morning and afternoon tours:

Blue whale raising its tail as it goes on a dive

Because the water was so clear, we could see the entire blue whale, 
tail and all, through the water

3 sperm whales at the surface together. 
These whales were seen breaching by our vigia (lookout) on land!

Pod of striped dolphins that were seen yesterday. 
These dolphins are usually seen travelling very quickly and surfacing in unison
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