Blue Ocean Society's Whale Sightings

Greetings! Thanks for visiting our blog. Our staff and interns will be posting their experiences here working on whale watch boats in NH and MA.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

August 14 Granite State

There are trips we spend such quality time with whatever we find that it is truly an experience. Then there are times when the sheer number of whales seen is just as amazing as you see so many exhalations out in the distance. Then there are those few times when we have both. Such was the case today and what a day it was.

This morning ended up being not only about lots of whales, but such a variety of species! We spotted and watched 3 Fin whales on our voyage out and around Jeffreys Ledge.

Fin whale dorsal fin

We also saw 17 different Sei whales, animals smaller than Fin whales, but THE fastest swimming whales in all the oceans! With an untrained eye both Fin whales and Sei whale can appear to be very similar in shape. While this is true (other than Fin whales typically being larger than Sei whales), Sei whales usually have much taller, or more broad, dorsal fins that help us to distinguish these species apart from each other. Can you notice a difference?

The "small" dorsal fin of a Fin whale
The "larger" or more broad shape and size of a Sei whale's dorsal fins pictured below

Not only did we spend time with our baleen whale species we also came across a quick, and large, moving pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins. The dolphins were cruising through the area so quickly we had to keep a good pace with the boat to get the chance to stay with and watch these whales.

Our pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins crashing through the water clearly on a mission to somewhere out east

Of course we don't only stop and watch whales! We also saw a blue shark and even a "bold" ocean sunfish during our travels this morning. This particular, bizarre looking sunfish, had no fear and swam all along the entire length of the boat before we could back away from this very friendly fish.

A fearless Ocean sunfish cruising down the side of the boat

With such an awesome morning trip what in the world would possibly make the afternoon comparable to this morning? Well, as it seems to be the case recently, little did we know how the afternoon would unfold...

We started out with a single Sei whale and a few others out in the distance. Then we continuously started to see spouts from whales a bit further offshore. With lots of time to explore this afternoon we chose to make our way further away from land. Well our first stop ended up on at least 6 different Sei whales circling the area. Not only were these whales circling around, they were weaving through the water in every which direction, but not at ultra-fast speeds in which they are capable of. This allowed us to shut off the boat and enjoy the whales all around.

Incoming Sei whale with its footprints of fluke-prints left behind where this whale last was

Out of the blue what appears out in the distance? Only a highly endangered North Atlantic Right whale! Wow. Both Sei whales and Right whales feed exclusively on animal plankton, most favorite items being copepods. There must have been plenty of food in the water to have not only a handful of Sei whales chowing down on all the plankton but to have such a rare sighting of a Right whale also taking advantage of all the food in the area. What a pleasant, and unknown, surprise. With more exhalations being seen from whales further offshore and this super rare and very restricted regulations of such a species when in the area of a Right whale, we knew it was time to go. On the plus side, seeing so many other spouts out in the distance we figured why not, we had plenty of time to check things out and spend time with the whales we were seeing in the distance!

The next time we stopped we were surrounded by at least 15-20 other Sei whales!!!! We couldn't believe what we were seeing. Literally everywhere you looked spouts from Sei whales were there! Not only were all these whales also circling around the area we were treated to these animals actively feed just under the surface of the water. Large disturbances and even some open mouths by whales on their sides kept being seen all over the place!! Completely and utterly beyond words!

Above: If you look very carefully you can actually see the eyeball of this Sei whale as it lays on its right side with its mouth wide open scooping up lots of food in the water!
Below: Another Sei whale also rolled over on its ride side with its flipper above the waterline!

Then what happened once again? Suddenly we saw out in the distance a few whales with no dorsal fins; there were more highly endangered Right whales in our mists! Overwhelmingly phenomenal.

Each and every day truly is such a wonderful chance to have the opportunity to spend any time with such a large and graceful mammal such as a whale. While who knows what we may or may not see next time we venture out to Jeffreys Ledge we do hope each of you enjoy the sights, sounds, and experiences you have with a few hours spent out on the open ocean in the Gulf of Maine.

You know it is a good day of whale watching when everyone, and everything, are checking out the whales surrounding the boat!

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