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2012 June 29, Friday
Gulf of Mexico

UPDATE 2012 Jul 13 -- VIDEOS added! (whale sharks, rays, and sargassum -- see below, above the photo galleries)

The season for whale sharks in the Gulf of Mexico has begun!  Finding them was our highest priority after returning from finding and flying for whales and sea turtles off of Cape Cod, and biologists from Louisiana and Mississippi were more than ready for us to to find them so that they could fit them with satellite tags.  Tropical Storm Debby had just passed, and the previous week's wild seas had calmed to near glass, so we wasted no time.  The only problem was, unlike previous summers, there have been no sightings reported by fishermen or oil platform workers.  Not a one.  So where would we start the search?  

Trying to be as scientific about this as possible, we combined all of our sightings from the past two years with the biologists' data on locations of sightings in the past ten years, and from them we made a "statistically optimum" flight path.  That path took us first to the Ewing Bank area, about 160 miles south-southwest of New Orleans, then eastward along the shelf about 75 miles, northeastward almost to Sackett Bank, then back to the Mars and Ursa platforms to catch up with some of the biologists who were there working with tuna, to tell them of our findings -- and very excitedly, as we had lots to report! Near Ewing Bank a pod of about 35 dolphins, then ten whale sharks all in close proximity, and later, about 50 miles eastward, ten short-finned pilot whales including several mother-calf pairs!  We also saw two large manta rays on our way back to shore.

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See lots more photos and videos and read the full article here!