Monday, 27 February 2012

Day 4. Bottlenose dolphins on the Frontier

After just three days of surveying, the team put down a very significant day.  The morning started off quiet but reached a climax when Randal and Roisin spotted a large group of bottlenose dolphins at the shelf break.

Suveyors tracking bottlenose dolphins from the crow's nest
 A quick decision was made to launch the RIB to attempt to obtain biopsy samples, one of the primary aims of the cruise.  Despite the swell, sharp eyes and clear direction from the mother-ship successfully led the RIB to the dolphins and the team managed to take the first ever bottlenose dolphin biopsy samples in Irish offshore waters (indeed to our knowledge, of any species). 

R.V. Celtic Explorer near the King Arthur Canyon (C) Joanne O'Brien
Additionally, 10 new individuals were added to the Irish bottlenose dolphin catalogue.  This is a great accomplishment and shows that biopsy and photo-id using a rib launched from a research vessel in offshore waters is feasible in Ireland, even in February..... 

Bottlenose dolphins surfacing at speed (C) Joanne O'Brien
The Marine Institute annual shiptime fund enables us to continue this research which helps Ireland to meet requirments under the EU Habitats Directive.  A productive day on the bird front with a staggering 87 great skuas, hundreds of gannets (including first winter birds, unusually far north for the time of year), kittwakes, lesser black-backed gulls and fulmars (including two "blue" morphs). The planktonologists reported a spectacular light show from a sample of deep-sea zooplankton biomluminescing in a dark room in the wetlab. They also saw garfish and a very large (as opposed to Giant) squid, estimated at 1 metre at the surface while hauling their nets - attracted by the ship's flood lights. The mauve stinger (Pelagia notciluca) remains elusive.

More bottlenose dolphins offshore (C) Joanne O'Brien

R.V. Celtic Explorer as seen from the IWDG RIB Muc Mhara (C) Joanne O'Brien

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