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Whale and dolphin research expedition in the Caribbean

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown

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The three-month whale and dolphin research expedition, Ti Whale An Nou, started May 15, 2021 and the objective is to register the number of whales, specifically sperm whales, and the routes they take in the Caribbean. The results will be used to determine what is needed to protect these large mammals. This expedition is coordinated by the Caribbean Cetacean Society and is made possible thanks to the partnership with the World Wide Fund for Nature Netherlands (WWF-NL) and the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA).

The name of the research project Ti Whale An Nou is a mixture of French Creole and English and it means ‘our little whales’. In the Caribbean, 33 out of the 90 known species of whales have been documented, which is more than a third of the world’s total diversity. This makes the Caribbean an essential habitat. The main objectives of this study are to assess population size, distribution, movements, social structure and vocal clans of Lesser Antilles sperm whales as well as improve knowledge on the other species. Vocal clans are social groups of whales that sound acoustically similar. The biggest threats to whales are noise from ship traffic or coastal development, pollution, hunting, and by-catch.

Migration and Numbers

The research of this expedition can make an important contribution to a better understanding of the population size and distribution of whales. Similar research has been conducted in previous years. The difference with this expedition is that the research area is extended and includes the region from Saba to Anguilla. Mammal presence and absence will be monitored in the Yarari Marine Mammal and Shark Sanctuary, around Saba, Saba Bank, St. Maarten and St. Eustatius. By comparing the results of this expedition with previously gathered data, concrete follow-up actions for the protection of the whales can be planned. This research mission receives great support by not only DCNA and WWF-NL, but from Corail Caraibes, Orange, the EDF Group Foundation, Animal Wellfare Institute, and Parc Naturel Régional de la Martinique as well.

Importance for other Caribbean islands

This research will provide an understanding of the migration routes of marine mammals and therefore an opportunity to improve the protection of these animals. A stable population of whales and dolphins is an indication of healthy oceans. In healthy oceans, fish stocks are stable which is important for the fisheries and the economy on the islands. Furthermore, whales play a significant role in capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. Each great whale isolates an estimated 33 tons of CO2 on average, thus playing their part in the fight against climate change.

Photo credits: Alexis Rosenfeld – all rights reserved

Nick and Caroline (Frogfish Photography) are a married couple of conservation driven underwater photo-journalists and authors. Both have honours degrees from Manchester University, in Environmental Biology and Biology respectively, with Nick being a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, a former high school science teacher with a DipEd in Teaching Studies. Caroline has an MSc in Animal Behaviour specializing in Caribbean Ecology. They are multiple award-winning photographers and along with 4 published books, feature regularly in the diving, wildlife and international press They are the Underwater Photography and Deputy Editors at Scubaverse and Dive Travel Adventures. Winners of the Caribbean Tourism Organization Photo-journalist of the Year for a feature on Shark Diving in The Bahamas, and they have been placed in every year they have entered. Nick and Caroline regularly use their free time to visit schools, both in the UK and on their travels, to discuss the important issues of marine conservation, sharks and plastic pollution. They are ambassadors for Sharks4Kids and founders of SeaStraw. They are Dive Ambassadors for The Islands of The Bahamas and they are supported by Mares, Paralenz, Nauticam and Olympus. To find out more visit www.frogfishphotography.com

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Cayman Bogue swim fundraiser adds sister island event for 2023

Caribbean DTA Team

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Swimmers from around the world invited to traverse ‘The Bogue’ in this 10K swim from Cayman Brac to Little Cayman for CCMI.

In September 2021, 16 local swimmers took on the challenge of swimming from Cayman Brac to Little Cayman, an open water swim of approximately 10 kilometres, to raise money for local non-profit the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI). After a very successful and fun initial experience, the organisers plan to make this an annual event to help bring endurance swimming events to the Sister Islands.

With such interest after the inaugural event, the 2023 Cayman Bogue Swim has increased the number of available registrations to 50 swimmers, has opened registration to swimmers both locally and abroad, will include several categories of registration, and will feature an expanded weekend of fun and activity in Little Cayman. Participants and their supporters can plan to join other Bogue swimmers for a welcome drinks/packet pick up event on the Friday evening, Bogue Bash: Band and BBQ celebration dinner on the Saturday evening, a tour of CCMI, and more. The weekend will begin Friday, 28th April 2023, with the actual swim starting at 8 am on Saturday, 29th April. The swim starts at Scott’s Dock, Cayman Brac and finishes at Point of Sand on Little Cayman.

Swimmers can choose to register in the competitive ‘race’ category, open water swim category, or as a relay team of two or four persons. No matter the race registration category, the Cayman Bogue Swim is an opportunity for swimmers of all ages, backgrounds, and mixed ability to share in a unique physical and mental challenge that has only been completed by a small number of swimming enthusiasts.

Swimmers can register for the event at https://donate.reefresearch.org/BogueSwim2023. Registration is US $325/person, and it includes event registration, welcome pack, event shirt, event swim cap, entry to welcome drink event/packet pick-up, locally made finisher medal, entry to the Bogue Bash: Band & BBQ event, tour of CCMI, transport via boat to the start line from Little Cayman, in-water support, and include a donation to CCMI in support of their work. Flights, lodging, all other meals, and incidentals are not included in the registration fee and are the responsibility of the participant.

The organisers of The Cayman Bogue Swim once again selected CCMI as the beneficiary of event proceeds, and unlike last year, swimmers will not have to engage in significant fundraising as part of their commitment to swimming in the event. However, anyone wishing to support the participants and their efforts to swim across the Bogue are welcome to donate to the online fundraising page: https://tinyurl.com/Bogue2023.

All donations support CCMI and their work to protect and restore coral reefs in the Cayman Islands through impactful research and innovative marine education experience for students.

For more information about the swim, please visit their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/caymanbogue.

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Halloween Special Part 2: PADI’s top 7 wrecks to dive in Bermuda

Caribbean DTA Team

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Just in time for Halloween, we’re back with Part 2 of our deep dive with PADI into spooky Bermuda… 

  1. The Mary Celestia

Also known as the Mary Celeste, this Civil War-era paddle steamer hit a coral reef and sank to her watery grave 1884. She’s known as one of the oldest wrecks in the area and is well-preserved considering: divers can view both her intact paddlewheel and engine, plus her bow, stern, boilers, and anchor. Resting at 55 feet below the surface, a little piece of Mary Celestia made its way above water in 2015 after a few bottles of 150-year-old wine were discovered and delivered to sommeliers for sampling in Charleston, South Carolina.

  1. The Cristóbal Colón

This enormous ship is the largest wreck in all of Bermuda. Coming in at a whopping 499 feet long, the Cristóbal Colón was a Spanish luxury liner that crashed into a coral reef off the north shore in 1936. With an abundance of marine life that’s settled in and around the wreckage strewn across 100,000 square feet of the sea floor, she’s visited by snorkelers and divers alike. Today she can be found at depths of 15 to 60 feet, but she used to peek out the surface of the water when she first sank, up until she was used for target practice in World War II.

  1. The Iristo

Only a year after the Cristóbal Colón went down, the Iristo (also known as the Aristo) followed in 1937. The captain of the Norwegian freighter is said to have been startled by the Cristóbal Colón’s wreckage, which ultimately led to the Iristo’s own untimely fate. He ordered the crew to change course but the Iristo struck a submerged reef and went down too! Her wreckage remains to this day with engine, boilers, and propeller visible amongst spectacular coral.

  1. The North Carolina

Looking for an extra spooky dive? Check out the North Carolina’s ghostly “deadeyes” in rows along her deck railings – the uncanny sailing riggings look just like cartoon skulls. At depths between 25 and 45 feet, she makes for an eerie visit whether taking a shallow dive as a beginner or diving into the deep. Hailing from Liverpool, this 250-foot English iron hull sank on New Year’s Day in 1880 when she ran aground southwest of Bermuda. Despite attempts to raise her, she remains in the depths of the sea sitting upright with a collapsed mid-section.

  1. The Montana and the Constellation

Get a two-for-one dive in when you visit the Montana and the Constellation, uniquely stacked on top of each other to the northwest of Bermuda. The Montana wreck dates back to 1863 – the Civil War era blockade runner hit a shallow reef and down she went. The Constellation followed eighty years later in 1943 and some reports state that the Montana’s bow took her down! The American cargo ship was carrying building materials and scotch when she went down, so divers can view stacks of cement bags and glassware when they explore these shallow waters.

  1. The Hermes

Explore the outside or inside of Hermes, a freighter that experienced engine trouble and was abandoned by her crew. Built in 1943, the lonely ship was deserted until 1984 when she was acquired by the Bermuda Dive Association and turned into a sunken artificial reef. She’s known as a highly photogenic beauty with fantastic visibility. Fully intact with her mast pointing to the surface, Hermes has come a long way from desertion as one of Bermuda’s most popular dive sites.

  1. The King George

Another lonely and ghostly ship left to sink to the bottom of the sea, the King George is a large dredger that was built for the Bermuda Government. After arriving on the island in 1911, she served a few years before being towed out to sea and left to sink in 1930 when she was no longer needed for harbor operations. Fully intact and upright, divers can circle her from end to end on the quiet ocean floor.

Ready for a Spooky Dive in Bermuda?

If you want to dive into the spooky depths of Bermuda’s water, there are several different types of PADI certification to get you there.

Formal training for wreck diving is especially important for your safety as it involves special procedures, techniques, and equipment. The PADI Wreck Diver Specialty Course covers all the fundamentals and includes four scuba dives to give you practice in the open water.

Enrolling is simple: you must be at least 15 years old and have earned your PADI Adventure Diver certification or higher. PADI’s wreck dive certification covers the basics, from navigating the inside and outside of a wreck to the appropriate gear you’ll need for wreck diving. You’ll also learn how to plan and map a wreck site along with special techniques to protect the site’s integrity.

You complete your certification after four wreck dives with an instructor, and away you go! The eerie deep blue of Bermuda awaits…

Images: DIVE BERMUDA

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