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  • Writer's pictureNiamh Faulkner

Having a whale of a time

Updated: May 13, 2021

We are now on our way to our research area and have begun to deploy the instruments. Over the past two days there has been a consistent large swell during our crossing (waves up to 4m), which has left some of our crew green in the face. Luckily there was pause in the swell yesetrday to run out acoustic release test (the next post will cover that and our instrument deployment). Thankfully it had eased by this morning, just in time to start deploying our instruments.

In more exciting news, we were joined by some very exciting guests- a pod of Pilot Whales. There were at least 8 whales that were very curious and came very close to the RV Celtic Explorer, circling the ship to see what we were up to.

Pilot whales are very curious, socialble members of the Delphinidae family. They are often found with other smaller cetaceans, such as bottlenose dolphins (we didn't actually see any dolphins yesterday, but hopefully we will soon).

The origin behind their common name is unsure. Their Latin name Globicephala means round head, denoting their bulbous head, which is one of their identifying features. Other characteristic features include a short snout and slender pointed flippers. They are the second largest member of the dolphin family. There are two species of pilot whale:

• Short-finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynus)

• Long-finned pilot whale (Globicephala melas)

Long-finned pilot whales are found in the North Atlantic, as well as other cold water bodies. They are divided into subspecies, including the North Atlantic long finned pilot whale (Globicephala melas melas).

A Pilot Whale breaching the surface in the background, with their characteristic beakless bulbous, melon-like forehead

In Ireland Pilot whales are commonly found in deep water, along the continental shelf and along the Rockall trough. So hopefully this won’t be the last sighting of Pilot whales on our expedition!

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