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Published: August 1st 2018
Sunday July 22 - I saw whales! It was a great start to the day. After breakfast we crossed the river and filled up the buses. I got on a bus with one of the groups of students who had been fun during the week, and took Clive with me, and Lisa and Erin got on the other bus. I chatted a bit with the driver about Dominica, and what it was like before the storm. It's hard to imagine how different it looks now compared to before the storm finished with it, but the stories help me to picture it a little better.
When we arrived at the dive site, we got on the boat and the captain introduced himself and gave us a safety introduction. I used the bathroom after that, and the door was positioned so that it felt like people could look straight in, but I don't think they actually could. The boat went about four miles offshore and then the crew put a device in the water that listens for whale sounds. It can hear them up to about 7km away, and they are directional, so they can determine which direction the whales can be
found and then go there. At first they didn't hear any whales, and we went to a new spot and listened again. The captain and two other crew were able to locate the general place where the whales were located, and we could hear diving and feeding sounds. It almost sounds like horses running or a ticking clock. Sperm whales can dive very deep and be down for an hour, which is about how long we had to wait for them to surface. The crew told us about the whales in the meantime, which was really informative.
The whales did eventually surface, and it was great to see them. There were two adults and a juvenile, and later we saw a different group with one or two juveniles, and I think a single whale as well. I got a lot of photos - some better than others - and some good videos. They stayed on the surface for 10-15 minutes before diving down again, and they were able to tell us to get our cameras ready for the dive that was coming. At 12:15 we started to head to the north of the island, to Fort Shirley in Cabrits
National Park, where the kids would be staying for their marine week. We had lunch there - I got a cheese sandwich - and then Clive and I walked around to explore the site before the others came to pick us up. When they got there, they all got their phones out and used the weak wifi, but I did not have my laptop with me, so I just hung around getting bitten by mosquitos.
From Fort Shirley, the others were headed to Stinking Hole to catch bats and record emergence counts from the cave. I was not interested, and wanted to head back across the river before dark, so I was hoping for a ride home with someone else. Our destination was a convenience store where Josh and Andrew could pick me up before heading into town, but signals were crossed and they left the parking lot about 10 minutes before we arrived. This meant I had to continue on to Stinking Hole and hope to be rescued there.
The road on the way up to Stinking Hole was terrible, and at times almost everyone got out of the van so it wouldn't scrape the bottom. The
road was all broken to bits, and a real mess, and quite steep in parts. Eventually everyone but Emma, who was driving, had to get out of the car. With the engine overheating, tires screeching and smoke coming from somewhere, it was finally time to admit the van could not drive that path. I was also starting to believe that Josh and Andrew were not going to be able to come. The others took the bat equipment and headed up to start walking the actual trail to the cave, but it was already later than it should have been, and not well planned, like much of what I see here. I walked Emma down the hill, to help her back down if needed, but she did fine. She had no idea if I should stay and wait for the guys or go with her, so I went with her, knowing Jackie had a car up there and would leave earlier than the others to take me and Clive back.
We hiked for about 10 minutes and then Jackie picked us up to take us to the top. I asked if I should stay at the car for the guys
or walk with her, and she didn't know, so I went with them. When it got too slippery and steep for me feel comfortable, and I got the keys and went back to the car. By the time I got back, it was 6:45pm and just starting to get dark. She said she would be back by 8pm, so I settled in to read. A few minutes later, Josh and Andrew pulled up. I was so relieved to leave early, and surprised they knew where to go or how to get there. I locked up and left the key on the tire, and away we went. The music was bad and blaring, and the whole car reeked of gasoline that had tipped over in the back seat, but it was still good to know I would get back at least an hour earlier than I had thought. I had an interesting conversation with Andrew about his life along the way, and then we picked up Shelly at Ronnie's fruit stand. She lost her headlamp on the way to the car and Andrew did not have his, but we made it across the river fine when it was time to cross.
I'm not loving it, but I'm getting better at it.
Back at camp we ate some stew type thing which is the Sunday night dinner - my first one in all the Sundays - and then I headed back to the room to shower and get an early night's sleep. I turned off my book at 10pm and it was heaven. I heard the others come in after midnight, but it was not such a bother. They'd had a flat tire in the van when they were leaving that had to be replaced. I'm just surprised that the van started.
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