On my second attempt to spot whale sharks yesterday, I flew with the effervescent Bonny Schumaker, whose organization On Wings of Care helps protect wildlife and their habitats by helping with search, rescue, rehabilitation and scientific research. Samantha Whitcraft of the non-profit Oceanic Defense also joined us for the flight. We took off from New Orleans and flew about 50 miles south over the Gulf.
Bonny and her 4-seater plane, whom she lovingly refers to as “Bessie,” have years of experience spotting wildlife. Unfortunately, despite Bonny and Bessie’s best efforts, the conditions yesterday were simply not ideal for finding marine life. Choppy waters and white caps made it a challenge to see much of anything besides oil rigs, oil boom and barrier islands:
We cheered when we flew over our boat, the Oceana Latitude. Then we flew over one of Transocean’s ultra-deepwater drillships, the Discoverer Inspiration, which can drill in water up to 12,000 feet deep. Bonny asked us over the radio, “Aren’t you inspired now?”
We also spotted a large area of what looked like surface oil sheen and a few beaches that still looked like war zones.
The previous day, Oceana intern Mara Nery went up in a spotter plane and during a brutally long day in the air (10+ hours) she had more luck seeing wildlife. She was able to see a pod of six spinner dolphins frolicking, and two pods of 40+ bottlenose dolphins. She even caught a few fleeting glimpses of four whale sharks, though the Oceana Latitude was too far from the sharks to arrive in time to see and tag them.
Stay tuned, we’ll have another whale shark update in the coming days.
- Ocean Roundup: Healthy Corals Mean More Sharks, Extinct Dolphin Found in Peruvian Desert, and More Posted Thu, September 11, 2014
- Ocean Roundup: Shark-Eating Dinosaur Fossils Discovered, Germany Paving Way for Cheaper Wind Energy, and More Posted Mon, September 15, 2014
- Oceana Magazine: DiCaprio Funds Conservation Across the Entire Eastern Pacific Posted Thu, September 11, 2014
- Ocean Roundup: Acidification Masking Shark Smelling Abilities, New Fishery Rule to Protect Endangered Albatross, and More Posted Wed, September 10, 2014
- Ocean Roundup: Western Australia Recommended to Halt Shark Cull, Orca Pod Saves Member from Fishing Gear, and More Posted Fri, September 12, 2014