August 20, 2018 with Solidaire

  • 04 / 09 / 2019 Par Marie-Ève Muller

    Last winter, our research assistants undertook the meticulous analysis of some 13,000 photos collected throughout the summer of 2018.Thanks to this exercise, we were able to conclude that we spotted Solidaire at least once. Here is a description of this encounter.

    We’re off the coast of Les Escoumins on board the BpJAM, our inflatable research boat. The sun glare on the water prevents us from obtaining an accurate count, but we have at least 70 belugas in front of us. We approach a cluster of 5 individuals to photo-identify them. All of a sudden, we start seeing pectoral fins poking above the surface and tails being lifted out of the water. We slip on our hockey helmet and leather gloves as we gear up to launch the drone. We also drop a hydrophone into the water to record the beluga’s vocalizations.

    Once the drone has achieved lift-off, we observe the whales’ behaviours. The animals’ broad shoulders indicate that we are dealing with a group of bulls. They are strongly interacting, grazing and jostling one another. Within the group, we recognize Écho, Gaston, Solidaire, Lugi, DL2023 and DL0058. The herd splits into smaller groups of ten or so individuals, while a few of the animals are swimming alone. Two young grey belugas and one that is almost white – what we would call dirty white – approach the boat and and begin to nibble on our hydrophone. The animals pick up their pace and we film for the twenty minutes of battery life we have left before departing to search for another group.