As a certain wise animated lion once said: “we are all connected in the great circle of life“. Now this holds true for every shrimp, fish, whale and human in the ocean and beyond. And it’s sometimes easy to forget how small it all begins.
Phytoplankton grow using sunlight and nutrients, they are the base of it all, and we have plenty of sunlight on our little island. But most of the nutrients are in the cold deep currents, luckily, we have some upwelling as these currents hit land and bring the nutrients up. There are however some creatures that also go down in the deep and just bring nutrients up. Sperm whales (Physeter macrocepalus) can dive to a depth of 2000 meters to hunt and an adult sperm whale can eat over a 1000 kg per day! This leads to a concept we call the whale pump, when diving whales, including todays Short finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorynchus) turn food from the deep waters into fertiliser for the surface. They are sometimes called the gardeners of the ocean as they fuel the circle of life at the top.
Of course, not all nutrients come from the deep, as the levadas of Madeira itself wash down soil and plants, they contribute to make nutrient-rich coastal waters, full of the fish that animals like todays Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) and striped dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba) love to feast on.
This is also why it is so important that we mind was enters the oceans, nutrients, sand and plants are great, but chemicals, petrol, metal and plastic also have a habit of finding it’s way into the water. And especially since we are on top of the food chain- we should be very careful what enters in the bottom!
Today we were privileged to see these amazing creatures in their natural habitat, it’s is an unforgettable experience, and certainly an opportunity we would like to pass on to the next generation.
By Scott Dorssers
Sightings of the day
09:00 Atlantic spotted dolphin, Short finned pilot whale
13:30 Sperm whale
09:00 Atlantic spotted dolphin
15:30 Sperm whale
18:00 Striped dolphin