Friday 30 July 2010

Just wanted to add a little thank you to our friends atWe managed to break the plug pins on the sponsored 420S Chart plotter a little while ago, and also had a older hand held GPS unit that was giving us some trouble.

Jason, Mike, Fraser and the crew at Garmin in Cape Town speedily sorted them out for us and everything is in 100% working order - thanks guys!! We'd be lost without you .

Days off in Namibia

By Lucille Chapuis - Oceans Research Intern July 2010.


Etosha National Park… a small taste of Eden

Although we enjoy greatly the aquatic fauna of Walvis Bay, we were quite happy when Simon accepted to let us have 3 days off in a row, which allowed us to visit the one of the world’s greatest wildlife reserves: Etosha National Park, 20 000 sq km of inland protected habitats, around the Etosha Pan, a huge flat and saline desert that is transformed in a lagoon during the rainy season. Having spent a night in a camp site near the park, we leave on an early morning and enjoy the sunrise entering the gate. Only a few minutes later, giraffes, zebras and springboks are already shining in our eyes… The time flows as we explore the bush and grasslands and discover their inhabitants: grass eaters like blue wildebeests, impalas, oryx, steenboks, jackals and ostriches are very abundant. The predators and the bigger ones are of course more difficult to spot. We face up to the challenge and with our budding biologists nose, we find a horde of 40 elephants having a communal bath in a waterhole, a leopard chilling under a bush, one lioness and her three cubs sipping quietly some water from a pond, as well as an immense and solitary elephant crossing the road nonchalantly. We rushed through the exit door under a beautiful “Etoshan” sunset, in high spirits and satiated. We drive back to Walvis Bay on the next day, looking forward to meet our sea-friends again. This week-end was just a part of our epic journey that we interns have been undertaking here for more than three weeks, experiencing an untouched, although elusive, “wild” wilderness.


Saturday 24 July 2010

Stranding season continues..

It seems to be a season of many strandings. On Wednesday this week a humpback whale was reported to us by Neels Dreyer to be stuck in shallows of the harbour in front of the fishing factories. The NDP team and John Paterson (Albatross Task Force) responded promptly and got on site to find several divers from Walvis Bay diving already in the water trying to guide the animal out to sea. After a little discussion with the TunaCor security officers to assure them we were there on legit business, John, Gwen Penry and I got our wetsuits on hopped in the water with the divers to help with the rescue attempt.

The whale was clearly unwell, covered in cyamids (whale lice), had a broken dorsal fin (probably from hitting into the jetty, it definitely wasn't a propeller cut) and was clearly disoriented, swimming at an angle, holding its head up and only going in circles. With much pushing we occasionally got the animal out of the shallows but it kept turning back to come lie on its belly. We attempted to the tow/guide the whale out of the shallows with help from the Walvis Bay diving boat, but although it got out a little way, it again came back.

The WBD boat had to leave but we got in two more boats from Mola Mola Tours and Henning DuPlessis (a local oyster farmer). These larger boats were more successful at pulling the whale further out of the jetty area, and eventually managed to get it past the moored ships. With some great driving by Rudi Hass and Eddie of Mola Mola and Henning - they managed to keep the whale from turning back to the shallows and guided her out in the deeper central bay area (last photo).

Once in the deeper water the whale paused to reoriented it self and seemed to wake up and head off strongly northwards. We were all hopeful that it was going to make it but unfortunately, on Thursday, the whale was reported re-stranded on the west side of the bay near the pump station.

The decision was taken at this point to let nature take it's course. Strandings are sad, but natural events and you can only perform so many rescue attempts (which are quite stressful for the whale) before admitting defeat.

I've put in some photos below, most taken by Lucille Chapuis, (one of our July interns) of the rescue operation in the harbour.

A big thankyou to Walvis Bay Diving, Mola Mola tours, Henning du Plessis and Tunacor for their help.

Sunday 11 July 2010

By Caroline Budden.

Hello! My name is Caroline and I am currently an intern at the Namibia Dolphin Project. I arrived here on the 1st of July from the UK. The view as I flew from Johannesburg to Walvis Baywas beautiful and consisted of miles of desert as far as the eye could see. I was met at the airport by Simon and after meeting the other interns and staff, I was soon feeling settled in and started learning how to grade dolphin photographs. This is important as only high quality photos are used to identify individual dolphins. The next day, on land survey duty, I caught a glimpse of my first bottlenose dolphin, which surfaced about 10m from shore. After teasing us with two short appearances, it then promptly disappeared. On my next land survey a few days later, we came across a whole group of bottlenose dolphins close to shore. We watched them wave riding, took as many photographs as we could and spent the next few hours tracking them from the beach to monitor their social interactions and general behaviour. This proved to be more difficult than it sounds - you don’t realize just how fast they can swim unless you are running alongside, trying to keep up with them!

On our day off, myself and the other interns went kayaking with wild seals at Pelican Point. The seals were adorable and were very intrigued by us and our brightly coloured kayaks. They were constantly swimming over to take a closer look and there were even a few attempts to steal our paddles! We saw a number of jackals as we drove through the desert and were amazed to witness a stand-off between a jackal and a fully grown seal. The jackal won the fish prize in the end but the seal didn’t give up easily!

While out on the research boat we encountered a whole group of Heaviside dolphins, inccluding two mothers with calves. I will never forget the sight of a baby calf swimming alongside the boat right beside me. However, the highlight of my first week here has to be the sight of a humpback whale surfacing about 5m away from the back of our boat. The noise of it blowing out as it surfaced made everyone on board jump with shock, especially as we were all expecting it to come up about 500m away in a completely different direction. I have had so many incredible experiences here in just a week and I am eagerly looking forward to the next few weeks!