Saturday, March 12, 2011

Survey Ends

So our survey has come to an end. We recorded 100 hours of simultaneous visual cetacean and seabird surveys, passive acoustic monitoring, sea surface temperature, salinity, depth and echosounder fish marks. About 220 hours of acoutic files from the hydrophone were recorded, half of which were analysed in real-time (the reaminder being recorded over-night).

Notable findings were a large aggregation (7 to 10) fin whales on the western slopes of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge feeding during spring/winter, when most other baleen whales are in low latitudes on their breeding grounds. A group of 5 sperm whales in Irish waters just west of the Porcupine Seabight was also a significant finding and 3 sightings of striped dolphins in Irish waters when the water is at its coldest was an unexpected (given their preference for warmer waters). The acoustic monitoring showed that sperm whales are present almost continuously over abyssal plain waters (>4000m) during this time of year both east and west of the Atlantic Ridge, but not on shelf edge or shelf waters.

The bird survey confirmed that puffins do head out in to the mid Atlantic for the winter months - they were observed regularly and singularly along our transect. Kittiwakes were seen each day, whereas fulmars were not. There were no storm petrels seen. Gannets were absent from the western Atlantic area of our survey where glaucous gulls were abundant. A group of Manx shearwaters 50 strong were seen in the final hour of our 15 day survey just off the Old Head of Kinsale, and nowhere else along our route. 
"Deck of Cards", Cobh. (Conor Ryan)

There is a chance that the Marine Institute at Memorial University of Newfoundland will charter the Celtic Explorer next year. If this is the case then we look forward to repeating this survey, given the success of this one.
Kittwake crossing the wake of the Celtic Explorer (Conor Ryan)

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