On-board Diary: Good sea today to see cetaceans

Author: Silvia García
Date: July 14, 2011



Today we have navigated towards a new submerged elevation, to see what we could find in its depths.  We are referring to Algarrobo bank (it is the name given to some kinds of marine elevations) submerged in front of Malaga, approximately 20 nautical miles from the Spanish coast. When we left the port of Almerimar, with a few hours of navigation ahead, some of us thought: “good sea today to see cetaceans”.  The sea was like a plate and the sky, although it was a bit cloudy, was not going to stop the spectacle we would witness:

  • 10:30, sighting a big group of at least 20 dolphins, but far away enough as not to identify the species.
  • 11:30, sighting a group of 7 Grampus griseus or Risso´s dolphins. This is a specially timid cetacean, so the luck of the sighting and the manoeuvres taken to get closer as stealthily as possible, until completely stopping at a discreet distance, seems to have given them the confidence of getting closer to us until almost touching the boat. Their curiosity towards us has been surprising and very rewarding, and the images obtained speak for themselves.
  • Between 12:50 and 14:50, we had continuous sightings of Globicephala melas, or long-finned pilot whales; up to 11 groups, the biggest of them all of more than 100 individuals, a figure we cannot precisely determine, since they could be distinguished as far as the eye can see, from E to W and towards N, towards the coast. In total we can calculate that more than 200 pilot whales have been sighted in this part of the journey.
  • Between 14:00 and 16:00, sightings of Stenella coeruleoalba, striped dolphins, accompanying one of the groups of  long-finned pilot whales on one occasion, but, at another time, a group of more than 200 individuals among which numerous juveniles were found.
  • Lastly, at 15:40, sighting a group of 15 common dolphins (Delphinus delphis), the cetacean species that, together with the bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), gets closest to the coast.

So we can therefore say that today we have sighted more than 400 cetaceans. A complete spectacle!

With regard to the Algarrobo, it is an elevation already studied by the Spanish Oceanography Institute [Instituto Español de Oceonografía (IEO)] during the DEEPER project. But today we will obtain the first underwater images of the depths of this elevation, increasing in this way the information available and, therefore, the knowledge about bionomics, with the objective of permitting appropriate management of this  important geological formation in the open sea of Alborán.