Friday 15 January 2010

With a little help from our friends..

A nice bit of news for the project. The new boat Nanuuq has been without a working depth sounder or GPS since we got her last year, which obviously makes navigating in the mist rather challenging. Knowing the depth is also of great importance to us so we know how much rope to put on the hydrophone moorings and when we're over reefs.

Even more importantly, from a scientific point of view we can use the depth and temperature data generated by the fish-finder as part of the environmental data we collect at dolphin sightings to help build up a model of their habitat use patterns.

Last year I asked Garmin South Africa (run by Avnic Trading locally) if they would sponsor us a small GPS / Fishfinder unit for the boat, and they've agreed! I'm currently sitting with the new 'toy' in my hands, a 420S and will be fitting it to the boat as soon as we get to Namibia at the end of the month.

A big thank you to Fraser McHenry at Garmin South Africa

Monday 11 January 2010

Rescue of a rare whale

By Ruth Leeney

On the 6th of January, a pygmy right whale (Caperea marginata) stranded just south of the pumpstation in Walvis Bay. The whale was a 3.5m youngster. Members of the Walvis Bay Strandings Network, including John Paterson and Naude Dreyer, quickly made their way to the scene and had a easy time getting it back into the water, although the whale did at first seem very disoriented and headed straight back to the beach four times before finally swimming out into the bay. This kind of behaviour is not uncommon in stranded cetaceans, and reinforces the importance of monitoring the animal after it has been refloated!

The pygmy right whale is one of the least-known whales in the world. It is very rarely seen at sea, and is mostly known from the few stranded specimens which have been examined by scientists, post-mortem. They grow up to about 6 m in length. Pygmy right whales are so-named because the shape of their head resembles that of a true right whale, but they are not closely related. Pygmy right whales are found only in temperate waters of the southern hemisphere. Sightings occur year-round in Tasmania, and seasonally along the coasts of South Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the Falkland Islands, and some areas of Antarctica.

We're really proud of the Walvis Bay Strandings Network, for acting quickly and efficiently in this matter and with a number of other recent strandings. Their continued interest and voluntary efforts ensure that we can get rare creatures such as this pygmy right whale back into their natural habitat, and perhaps learn something about the in the process.