2014 June 12 Thursday
Ewing Bank area, Gulf of Mexico
OWOC’s third Whale Shark search of 2014, and our first search with a tagging boat in the Ewing Bank area(WS3-EB2)

On this third search of the season for whale sharks, we hit the full moon almost perfectly, and today there would be a research boat and divers out for the day to Ewing Bank, prepared to find, identify, and tag some new whale sharks.  The date was just a week earlier than last year when we had found so many whale sharks, hence our hopes were high.  To decide where we would focus our search, we considered many factors: Where blue water was today, where we had seen wildlife (versus oil, for example) on our last flight, the most likely locations for whale sharks based on underwater terrain, and finally the mobility of the research boat.  We started out by flying the bank area — the underwater ridge between Diaphus Bank to the east and Ewing Bank (and a bit beyond) to the west. We searched as far northward as blue water or clear blue-green water permitted us to see well, and as far southward in our search as we thought the tagging boat could reach easily.  We also gave lower priority to the areas where there was lots of oil sheen (the southern portion of the survey grid).

Here are maps showing our flight survey of today, with our flight path in magenta. Below it are today’s maps superposed on the flight from last May 22, which surveyed the entire grid area. The icons indicate our substantial sightings of bait balls, a hammerhead shark and one very large manta ray, some fairly large fish and a small group of dolphins, and beautiful large arrays of sargassum.  But alas, no whale sharks! We were stymied again.

 

Here are some of our favorite photos, followed by galleries of a few more and by our detailed Flight Log.

 

*****  On Wings Of Care Flight Log for 20140612 - Thursday  *****
Whale Shark Survey in the Gulf of Mexico

Ewing Bank Survey #2 for 2014 (2014 WS3-EB2)

Note: Flight Route is Magenta on Map

All waypoint numbers below refer to the GPS tracks shown in today’s article at OnWingsOfCare.org.

Times are given in CDT. 
Lat/lons are typically given in degrees and decimal minutes (except in the table below, where they are in decimal degrees)
Pilot & Aircraft:
Bonny L. Schumaker, Ph.D. (ATP, CFI-AIM), N4784E (“Bessie”)
Spotters/Crew: Steven Montz, Steven Kleyle

Seas and weather: Seas 2-3 ft, winds 10 kts from the northwest
Sky & Visibility: Hazy, 5—10 mile visibility, some precipitation in vicinity. 
Flight time: 6.0 hours

Flight route: KNEW - Ewing Bank area (targeted portions of survey grid where water and sky visibility was best and bad weather was absent)

Actual Flight: 739nm within an area of 632 sq nm
Maps of our route showing the following waypoints identified during our flight, plus some relevant waypoints from previous flights, are in today’s article (including a link to our GPS track file).

DVR FLT PLAN: (Xpdr____):

N4784E, C172/U 115 kts. KNEW ETD 11450Z, <1,500’, KNEW. ETE: 6.0 hrs. Wildlife survey.
First Dest: ~140 nm south (~200°) of KNEW (NE corner of Ewing Bank survey grid)
ADIZ-Back: ~N28 52 W090 37

New Waypoints and sightings:

WPT

LAT

LON

TIME

DESCRIPTION

1039

28.85

-90.64

2014-06-12T15:22:05Z

^^ Stone Energy Platform, Slick running SouthEastward

1040

28.10

-90.79

2014-06-12T18:25:49Z

** Bait Ball with Large tuna, breaking surface, just north of Manta Ray platform (SS323)

1041

28.12

-91.00

2014-06-12T18:34:05Z

** Hammerhead shark

1042

28.06

-91.06

2014-06-12T18:48:51Z

** small shark?

1043

28.06

-91.06

2014-06-12T18:49:49Z

** Bait Ball near rig

1044

27.94

-91.03

2014-06-12T19:01:27Z

** Bait ball near GC platform

1045

27.95

-90.99

2014-06-12T19:02:46Z

** Bait ball near Platform (Shell Pipeline GC19)

1046

28.17

-90.95

2014-06-12T19:14:14Z

**Pod of dolphins, ~ 12?

1047

28.19

-90.74

2014-06-12T19:26:11Z

*Small bait ball, some flying fish (near Diaphus Bank)