2012 July 11 Wednesday
Gulf of Mexico
Today we went searching for whale sharks again, to help a team of scientists who were ready and eager to place some satellite tags. With serious thunderstorms to the west and east, their target area was south of New Orleans, beyond Sackett Bank and on toward the Mars and Ursa platforms and an area known as the "Mississippi Canyon." (Recall the oil we documented in that vicinity last April 12 and18.) Some whale shark sightings had been reported in that vicinity by fishermen during the preceding week, so we were hopeful, even though this area was well east of the Ewing Bank area where we had seen a group of whale sharks on June 29. We did a very careful search of this area for several hours, but we found nothing! Nada. Nobody. Not even flying fish! It seemed a desert.
As we exhausted our search in the area accessible to the boat, we bid them adieu with disappointment. There were heavy thunderstorms between us and New Orleans, so we would have to thread our way westward around them -- which was just the excuse we needed to keep on searching. We headed westward toward Ewing Bank, more determined than ever and all eyes scanning intently through our open windows. ......
No sooner were we out of radio communication range with the boat than we spotted some fins and spouts! Three sperm whales! Looked like maybe a mother and calf, with a larger male some ways away. The mother and calf were just hanging there vertically, as if perhaps they were recovering from a long dive. This behavior continued for a good ten minutes, after which we continued on our way to search for whale sharks.
No whale sharks, but we did find hammerhead sharks, and we were treated to several schools of golden rays. And some interesting research-survey ships, mobile offshore drilling units, and salvage vessels of sorts we have not seen before!
Read the article and see the photos here!