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.

Friday, August 5, 2011

August 5- Prince of Whales

What an amazing day today!!! As we left our dock and cruised down the Merrimack River towards the Atlantic Ocean, we radioed our friends on the Granite State to hear what they saw on their morning whale watch. They said they had a pretty good trip, but where they found whales was a little too far for us to go.

We motored out about 20 miles to where we had found whales the past few days but didn't see anything besides a few birds. As we continued onward, we found ourselves getting slightly closer to where the "hot report" from the morning was. More radio conversations with fishermen coming in, and whale watch boats going out..... We decided to bite the bullet and head to the most recent reports, which were still miles away from our position.

Captain Billy spotted a blow on the horizon....still miles in front of us. I was busy clutching my stomach which was feeling like a rock after I had inhaled a 650-calorie chicken pot pie. Did you know that a fin whale eats the caloric equivalent of 1538 mini Marie Callendar pot pies EACH DAY?? Ouch.

The blow that Billy saw was a fin whale!! As we got near it, the whale surfaced several times at close range. We got some nice looks at it, including its distinct fin shape and saw that this was fin whale #0622, first seen in 2006! This whale appeared to be feeding on schools of fish (not chicken pot pies) just sub-surface.

Fin whale #0622

Our friends on the Atlantic Queen II came over for some views as well and we stayed with this whale for a few minutes before leaving to search for more whale activity.

Fin whale #0622, near the Atlantic Queen II

Soon, our friends on the Starfish (have I mentioned how great it is to have friends on the ocean with us??) informed us of a pod of dolphins and a fin whale not too far away. We got to the location and found the fin whale was WITH the dolphins! This is my FAVORITE situation for whale watching! It is almost like cheating....we just follow the dolphins around and then BAM, the fin whale surfaces with the dolphins! It is absolutely amazing and so much fun! So the dolphins basically track the fin whale while it is down for a dive...zigging this way and zagging that way, following the fin whale whether it likes it or not. We track along with the dolphins and get amazing views of both the huge fin whale AND the dolphins! Poetry in motion!
Fin whale surfacing

Fin whale with dolphins
Fin whale distinct chevron pattern with a dolphin

As we got great looks at the fin whale, we have not identified it yet. It does have a very new and fresh scar on it behind the fin- likely caused from an entanglement in fishing gear. Several scars were actually documented along the entire body of this whale. Entanglements are a huge threat to all species of whales and an issue we are all working hard to prevent.

Fin whale, with new wound behind the dorsal fin, with a dolphin nearby!

The Starfish watched this event with us for a bit before heading home and we soon headed for the barn as well.
Starfish departing as a fin whale surfaces

On our way in, we saw our passengers on the upper deck pointing to something off to the left. We spotted another blow. As we looked more closely through our trusted binoculars, we saw that this whale was not a regular to the area. This was a very very very special whale! The v-shaped blow, large head, lack of dorsal fin and smooth-edged black fluke told us we were looking at a critically endangered north Atlantic right whale! This is the rare of the rare with less than 500 animals in their population. 500. How many kids were in your senior class? How many people live in your town??

Although we are not allowed to get close to right whales due to their critical status, we all were impressed by that huge black fluke in the distance as it went down for a deep dive. Absolutely amazing, especially knowing that these whales may well be extinct in less than 100 years.

Thanks to everyone for your patience today in our search for whales, and a special thanks to our good luck charm, Bob (Intern Lacey's dad) for bringing us good luck today!

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