news letter 97

This album is the reflection of dozens of hours of work, hundreds of observations and about 100 000 clichés. The photographs we have selected for 1997 season are evidently a subjective choice. We can be looking at photographs as eventful as the appearance of the Blue Whale, Balaenoptera musculus, (this species has not been observed in the archipelago for the last 30 years), or of the Northern bottlenose whale, hyperoodon ampullatus, as unique as the one of the complety white spotted dolphin, Stenella frontalis, or as sad as the mother sperm whale, Physeter macrocephalus, that for several days carried her dead baby in her mouth.

Photos of David Hofmann, 29 May 1997

For several weeks already the look out posts report the presence of several big animals, identical to the ones observed in 1995 and 1996: The blue whales have not been sited in the archipelago for about 30 years.
On board nobody can believe it, but every body waits anxiously.
At 17 hours, the great encounter takes place. At 7 miles to the south of São Mateusthey are there, four of them, one of them, feeding, is really enormous.
An unforgettable spectacle and indeed very good news: the blues are back in the middle of the Atlantic. We will observe this group of 6 animals, including 2 calf for 3 weeks.

Photos of Roland Seitre, July 1997

According to the old whalers, this animal had never been as close to the coast.
For one week we observe 6 bottlenose whales always in the same spot. The animals were not very active but they were not at all frightened by our presence and allowed us to come close.

Photo of Roland Seitre, September 1997

A fisherman calls us on the radio; Serge, Serge, I swear, I have seen a white dolphin half mile from where you are.
The position of the group was confirmed by the look out : It was a group of about one hundred spotted dolphin and amongst them is a white, completely white, adult animal. Going a bit closer we could make out that it was a Stenella Frontalis. Was it a melanine problem ? It must have been as this certainly not an albino.
We observed this animal for several times the next 3 days.

Photos of Roland Seitre, September 1997

We had already observed similar behaviour with a pilot whale last year: a dead baby "guarded" by a female, maybe the mother and by the rest of the group. We will later learn that the baby was born dead.
During our first observation, he still had the umbilical cord (approximately) 40 cm). Then for 3 consecutive days almost in the same geographical position, the female took care of the small animal, forgetting completely to feed herself.
The unwelcome intervention of another boat that took the little whale unfortunately put an end to this mysterious behaviour we call a "funeral". The sudden disappearance of the baby upset the group completely.
How long would the mother have kept her calf? To what stage of exhaustion would she have gone? And what would have been the behaviour of the rest of the group? So many questions that will stay unanswered.