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, September 7, 2012

September 7 Granite State

After 4 days on land we were not only eager to get back on the water but extremely interested to see what may, or may not, be around.  Now that it is September and most folks are back home after a busy summer our trips run 4 times a week and we sometimes get antsy before we get the chance to get back out offshore.  Everyday is a gamble when it comes to if we will see whales, where they may be, and what they may actually be doing if/when we do get the chance to see them.  There tends to be many things not in our favor (we cannot control the weather, all the whales are wild meaning there is no chance of us having ANY idea where they may be headed or how long they may stay under the surface of the ocean, etc) and yet here we are always wanting to have the opportunity to "roll the dice."  Luckily we do have plenty in our favor including one of the most important aspects: Jeffreys Ledge.  This natural topographical feature creates lots of upwelling currents (churning of the ocean from the bottom of the seas right up to the surface of the ocean) ultimately creating plankton which brings in the fish which can easily cause the whales to swim into the area!  So even after being "land-locked" for a few days we knew there is always the chance of something perhaps spending some time out, or around, the ledge.  Then again we are always also anxious as a whale's movements can be so drastic.  One minute they can be around and the next they are gone.  Once again the nutrient-rich body of water off the coast today provided plenty for us to look at even if we haven't been scouring the horizon for signs of whales all week.

Dolphins were first on the list.  A pod of at least 150 Atlantic white-sided dolphins were EVERYWHERE.  It is highly possible there were more as a few groups, comprising of a good-sized number, were constantly being seen out in the distance and yet we had plenty of them to look at close by!  This group was on the move, possibly chasing down small schooling fish below the ocean's edge, and forced us to have to keep up with the movements of this constantly moving group.  What a pleasant way to begin the day especially with the shear number of whales in this particular group.
Leaping dolphins!

Perhaps the dolphins distracted us enough for soon after leaving the group we came across a Fin whale not far beyond the smaller whales.  This Fin whale, while "smaller" in size (still probably a good ~40ft long) was swimming just below the surface giving us the chance to watch this animal pump its large tail up and down moving itself forward.  At one point you could see from tip-to-tail of this whale as it effortlessly swam alongside the boat.
Fin whale at the surface. Above: The front part of this whale as you can even make out this whale's flipper (light green patch) seen extending out the side of this whale.  Below: The dorsal fin and some of this whale's back

With our excitement continuing with such nice sightings before reaching Jeffreys Ledge we knew we had to see if anything else was spending some time in our area a few more miles offshore.  Soon we were surrounded by more whales.  There were two other Fin whales circling around as well as another species, some Humpback whales.  Our first Humpback whale was Patches spending most of its time "hovering" at the surface; a good indication this whale was napping. 
Patches' dorsal fin "bobbing" at the surface
We left Patches to continue on with its sleeping patterns and instead made our way over to a pair.  This pair was a mother and it's calf!  The calf was also spending most of its time at the surface, just like Patches, resting while mom was spending most of her time further below.  Having these two very relaxed Humpback whale pair close by gave us some very nice looks at mom's "small" calf.  Thanks to our friends aboard the Prince of Whales (who had ventured into the area) they were able to snap a quick photo of Mom's tail.  Other than rolling on her side for a moment, Mom never showed any part of her tail while we were around.  We had an inkling as to who it might be but the Prince of Whales passed along the exciting news.  Tornado and her calf were here! 
Tornado's flipper above the waterline as the calf's back can be seen just in front of Mom's flipper
That is actually Tornado's calf above the surface.  Tornado herself is just barely above the surface (Tornado's dorsal fin can be seen on the left side of the photo!)
This is the first time this pair has been seen on Jeffreys Ledge this season.  Tornado herself is a familiar whale to the area over the years and we love seeing familiar tails, especially with their calves, move on into the area.  What a nice surprise!

The day wasn't done for as we went searching for another whale we had seen in the distance while watching Tornado and her calf, we suddenly spotted who we were waiting for.  Out of the blue one very large Humpback whale came clear out of the water.  A full body breach!  Unless you were one of the few lucky passengers who happened to be looking in the right place at the right time you most likely instead saw the enormous splash created by such the event.  Even though this whale only jumped once we got some great looks as Tectonic continued to move around the area.
It was another adventure today as whether we go on two trips in one day, or only a few times a week, the whales keep us on the edge of our seats as we continue to search for such mysterious and wondrous creatures!
Tectonic in the process of swimming further down into the ocean's depths

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