SouWEST 2014 underway – and the whales are not disappointing!

The Curtin University Theodolite team started observations in early November.  It’s great to be back – a home away from home! This year the team includes volunteers from Brazil, Croatia, China, France, New Zealand and Australia (plus our normal composition of Venezuelan, Colombian and Scottish!). In addition to our normal activities, this year, SouWEST is collaborating with the Department of Fisheries and its research with whale alarms and humpback whale movement.  But more on that in our next post!

The Curtin University theodolite team tracking whales from their hilltop vantage point in Geographe Bay

The Curtin University theodolite team tracking whales from their hilltop vantage point in Geographe Bay

Since the start of the season, we have observed 130 groups of humpback whales, including one formed by a Mother-Calf-Mother-Calf-Escort and some competitive groups of at least 5 animals. And of course we have also had our usual assortment of spectacular humpback whale breaches!  We have also tracked 16 groups of blues.  One of the SouWEST highlights this year was when we had seven blue whales on the go at once!  Two pods were travelling through the area at the same time, one with three individuals and another with four.  It is quite a sight to see four blue whales blowing at the same time!  The volunteers were also delighted to track 5 groups of blues in one day!

Blow!  Pygmy blue whale sighted off Pt Picquet

Blow! Pygmy blue whale sighted off Pt Picquet

We have had couple of down days because of the weather, but as in previous years, we have deployed and acoustic array to track the animals when we can’t see them!  Thanks to the Dunsborough Sea Rescue for helping us with the deployment of our underwater noise loggers!  This acoustic data can also help us to understand more about whale communication, to supplement the results from our visual tracking data on whale movements.

During the down-time days we have ducked into Margaret River, Yallingup and the Hamelin Bay for a bit of R&R.

Busman's Holiday:  The marine biologists have some down-time...  At the beach!

The marine biologists have some down-time… At the beach!

It has been a great season so far – we can’t wait to see how the rest of the season will go!  And what Geographe Bay and the whales will bring!

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