40 years in the Field: First Trip of 2024 

We’ve concluded our first two dolphin trips in the Bahamas of the 2024 field season. Here is a recap of Trip 1 by our research director and founder, Denise Herzing, Ph.D., and research assistant Hayley Knapp.

Summary of Trip 1 by Denise Herzing

Although May is not always a good weather month, in 2024 it proved to be fantastic. We made our way to West End of Grand Bahama Island for our first boat trip of the season. It was glassy weather and calm winds so I decided to stay on Little Bahama Bank (LBB) the whole trip, rather than also traveling to our second site in Bimini as well. This gave us time to focus on finding the smaller group of spotted dolphins that remained there. 

For many of you who have been out with us over the decades, you will remember the White Sand Ridge. It’s a breathtaking white sandy area quite remotely situated in the northern part of our study site, and hard to reach in rough seas. As soon as we left harbor we anchored for the night and BOOM, some spotted dolphins showed up. 

My assistants these days have not often had the experience of dolphins coming to the anchored boat at 6:30 a.m., but on this trip they did, just like the old days. That means drinking coffee and having the cameras and video set up ready to go. The next day, as we traveled north, we went over Crater Bay, historically the place to always find bottlenose dolphins digging in the sand. And BOOM. There were bottlenose dolphins digging in the sand. And to top it off, as we got up to our little dolphin wreck on the ridge, BOOM, there were spotted dolphins interacting with bottlenose dolphins. Suffice it to say that we were more than thrilled, and glassy waters to boot. I should clarify that the spotted dolphins that we saw were basically the same “southern” group that stayed on LBB and did not move to Bimini. But it does appear that they have spread out, and they are reproducing well, with multiple young calves and juveniles abounding. 

Now starts the detective work of trying to track young dolphins with limited spots and marks.  After not spending time on LBB for a couple years, this makes the task more difficult. It is why I have worked so hard being out on the water every summer to follow these individuals. But WDP has a great group of assistants and students that become detectives with our photo identification process, so we will keep you informed as the summer goes on. (P.S. This summer is our 40th year in the field!!)

See Hayley’s write-up below describing some of the individual dolphins and their antics.

Summary of Trip 1 by Hayley Knapp

Hello from the Bahamas! We are so excited to be back on the water this summer for our field season and have been blessed with two wonderfully calm trips so far. The water has been crystal clear and glassy, which is perfect for spotting dolphins and snorkeling the Sugar Wreck. 

On Trip 1, we were fortunate enough to spend the entire time on Little Bahama Bank (LBB) and we saw so many dolphins. The beautiful weather and calm seas gave us a chance to stay pretty far north for a few days, in places formerly vacated by the spotted dolphins like White Sand Ridge, the Nursery, and Dolphin Wreck. It appears they have re-inhabited the northern parts of LBB and their population seems to be growing considering we saw several young individuals.

In addition to all of the juveniles we saw, we also encountered some older, well-known dolphins: Poindexter, Navel, Naia and Flying A. Naia had last summer’s calf, Nera, with her as well. With wonderful encounters on LBB during Trip 1, we are looking forward to spending more time up there this summer.