Thursday 27 November 2014

Lindblad Expeditions: Strange things happen at sea


A radar blip turns out to be a whale carcass
You've heard me say it over and over. With expedition cruising, you just never know what's going to happen next. While that may unhinge certain travellers, for me it's part of the excitement of travelling in true expedition style.

Yesterday, in the open ocean en route to Manihiki Atoll, Captain Taillard picked up a blip on the radar. At first it was thought to be another small craft adrift. Then when visual contact was made, the rounded shape looked like an upturned boat, so he altered course slightly for a better look and perhaps to assist any survivors.

Soon the truth was revealed. It was a massive whale carcass, bloated and bobbing among the waves. With a bank of binoculars trained on the anomaly, it could be seen to be a sperm whale.

Such events are like a red rag to our underwater team and soon divemaster Justin and the marine squad were on their way to investigate. The ship stayed a couple hundred metres away but every so often the aroma of putrefying blubber would blow our way.
At $1000 per tooth, the temptation is there
to perform some ad hoc extractions (Justin Hofman)
Organic 'rafts' like these present opportunities for fish to congregate and feed on the bounty. Small pelagic trigger fish, wahoo and big travally were all lining up for a feed under the carcass which had obvious and disturbing evidence of shark bites. Big bites, probably from something like an oceanic white tip known for snacking on humans occasionally.

With the price of a sperm whale tooth easily $1000 a piece, I'm wondering if our away team had suddenly turned buccaneer at the temptation. But no, they returned with just fascinating video footage to share and quietly debating, I'm sure, whether they should have cashed in on this smelly windfall. There was no bringing this poor beast back to life.

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