• They have a lot more to teach us.

    We've learned a lot with your help. But there's still so much we need to know to protect our wild dolphin neighbors.

    Give to dolphin research at the Cape Lookout Studies Program.

  • Sea Turtel sick and injured from fishing line

    You can stop this.

    Protecting marine wildlife is within your reach.

    When you give to put monofilament recycling bins within reach of conscientious boaters and anglers.

  • Harbor seal in need

    Save lives, reduce suffering, learn more.

    It's a win, win, win – when you support our Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

    Please give generously to the Cape Lookout Studies Program.

  • Cetacean Studies

    Inspire curiosity.

    What does it take to get students interested in science and conservation? Your help.

    Please give generously to support Cetacean Studies and the Bonehenge rearticulation project.

Author Archive

Monofilament Recovery & Recycling

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Uncategorized

We Have had a monofilament recovery and recycling program for a while and have tried to implement what has been successful in Florida’s and Georgia’s programs. We have 40 bins already strategically placed and we just set up three more bins on Bogue Banks; one at the new West Beaufort boat ramp and replaced one on the fishing pier along side of the high-rise bridge between Beaufort and Morehead.

This picture is of our new portable recycling bin that we can take to fishing tournaments, fairs or educational programs.

This is a link to an incredible video A Tale of Entanglement,http://vimeo.com/1870031 about the monofilament problem and recycling – be sure to have your volume turned up, the music is beautiful. Some disturbing but all too real images. It is positive at the end.
Then look at their newest video, If the Ocean Could Talk http://vimeo.com/5074427. Some of it was filmed at Cape Lookout Studies waterfront and dock. Keith and some local seventh graders are in it. It is very good


What does that Pelican Have ??

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Uncategorized

When we were out looking for dolphins on Spyhop we went by a pelican sitting in the water between Shackleford and Cape Lookout who seemed very interested in what looked like a brown ball floating on the surface. We turned around and netted whatever it was. It turned out to be a puffer fish as puffed up as possible. A useful defense. I love the way he/she looks – what a cute face.

After we took pictures we gently put it back in the water and as it swan away it deflated down to normal size which was about a third of how it looks in the pictures . It was an unusual and fascinating process to watch.

photos by Keith Rittmaster

Thank You & Sperm Whale C 2-7 Vertebrae Capture

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Uncategorized

Thank you http://http://southernfriedscience.com/ for your $200 check from your matching funds challenge for http://bonehenge.org/ and its sperm whale skeleton re-articulation project.
One of the latest triumphs in this project is the replacement of a vertebrae missing from our sperm whale with one approximately the same size (their whale was 33 feet and ours was 33.5 feet). Keith put word out to the international stranding network that he was looking for cervical vertebrae C 2-7. It is called C 2-7 because in sperm whales the 6 cervical vertebrae are fused into one bone.

At Fort De Soto Park in Florida a sperm whale had been buried after stranding and dying a couple of years ago. After much arranging of logistics and a grueling hot day with the back hoe digging up the whale skeleton to find C2-7, the right bone emerged. Success.
It was very smelly and had to go on the plane in a cooler for the trip back to Beaufort. Kitty Litter was the primary ‘de-smeller’ of choice with help from those spray
fragrances. The vertebrae is here at our site on top of the roof drying out and still smelling.

Bottlenose Dolphin Sightings for April and May 2009

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Uncategorized

In this picture the sliver of land behind the dolphins and water is Shackleford Banks where we see a lot of dolphins. Shackleford is unihabited by humans.
Bottlenose dolphin sightings for month of April 2009 in both the ocean and estruary under Keith’s research permit are:
4 days out on water
6 separate sightings and
73 total individual dolphins
and for May 2009

6 days on the water
7 separate sightings and
46 individual dolphins.
In May there were 10 dead neonates on NC beaches which is a record high but we have seen 2 live ones with moms in Beaufort so far and we expect there will be more.
photos by Brooks


Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Bonehenge; Cetacean rearticulation, Donate

We only have 3 days left to take advantage of a matching funds offer. (Sounds like NPR).
southernfriedscience.com is offering to match any funds donated to Bonehenge for the next 3 daysIf you scroll down on their site, you will come to an image on the right of a Sperm Whale skeleton that says ‘donate now’. There is a link to Bonehenge.org but don’t click the link because you will only get the matching funds by donating on his southernfriedscience site. Take a look at the Bonehenge.org site though, it is really interesting and worth donating to. A sperm whale skeleton is being re-articulated here in Beaufort, NC in a building built just for this project. There are some state of the art procedures being used such as x-rays of one of the flippers that was frozen at the time of stranding to assure accuracy in arranging the complex flipper bones, comparisons to human bones of the same approximate age, analysis of stomach contents and bone degreasing. We are learning from what has and has not worked in the past.
Thanks !

Stranded Right Whale

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Uncategorized

This past winter a Right Whale stranded on Shark Island which is right off Cape Lookout near Beaufort, NC.
We were asked to get some additional tissue samples after the necropsy(autopsy for an animal) had been completed. The whale seemed to have been entangled and also to have a curvature of the spine. It was thought to be a 2 year old male. Where it had stranded was a very tricky site only accessible by boat and only at a certain tide.
The first picture shows how even though we mourn the loss of the whale, the seagulls remind us, as we arrive, that nothing is wasted.
Keith and Duck, a volunteer, work at getting the samples as they stand with chilly ocean above their knees.

They returned successful.

The good news is that this year there was the highest number of Atlantic Right Whale calves born in the last number of years. They are very endangered.

photos by Brooks

The Main Players

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Uncategorized

Here are Keith Rittmaster and NanBowles, the long time CapeLookout/Dolphin ID staff. Keith is Curator of Natural Sciences for the North Carolina Maritime Museum. It is surprizingly often that you will see Keith carrying a marine mammal skeleton somewhere, on the phone is pretty typical also – on the boat picture is coming. Nan, who is usually pretty colorful, manages the data for Dolphin Photo ID Project and whatever else needs doing. Everyone here is very good at wearing multiple hats. She has the best ‘dolphin spotting’ eyes out on the boat. I am a helper who is doing this blog. Any errors are my responsibility. There are many wonderful volunteers who keep everything from boat engines to morale in excellent condition.photos by Brooks

Cutty and Neonate

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Uncategorized

Cutty‘ was seen swimming with her newborn calf Sunday, May 24th, 2009 in the Newport River. The Newport River goes past Beaufort NC up to Core Creek and is also the Intracoastal Waterway (a couple of us live here too). This is a place where moms and calves are often seen spring and summer – some refer to this area as the ‘nursery’. We have seen Cutty since 1985 in the Beaufort area although not every year. We also have seen her with other calves. We are excited. In the picture you can see the fetal folds (the dark lines across the back of the calf). Like us, they pretty much have to curl up in the uterus due to lack of space. She was with 2 other dolphins when she was seen.
photo by Keith Rittmaster

Spyhop Log becomes Spyhop Log blog

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Uncategorized

Welcome as Spyhop Log moves into the 21st century by becoming Spyhop Log Blog. Expanded mission, some changes and lots of activity. Keep checking with us.
Our biggest change is the Bonehenge Project that started in 2004 with a stranded Sperm Whale at Cape Lookout, NC. That whale’s skeleton is now being prepared to be re-articulated and will eventually hang in the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort, NC. Check all the info and pictures at Bonehenge.org. It’s fascinating – just last month there were 6,644 hits.

We continue our 18 year Bottlenose Dolphin photo ID work in Beaufort, NC with a NOAA Fisheries protected species research permit.
And we respond to Marine Mammal Strandings in our area and help with necropsies. Over the past year there have been both dolphins and whales.

Our NC Monofilament Recovery and Recycling Program keeps growing and we just sent off 31 pounds of of monofilament line (that’s a lot) for recycling. We now have 39 recepatcles installed at key fishing sites and shops with more on the way.

Pictures and more details will follow, at least you know we are still doing the work and are very much alive and well.