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.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Bittersweet Ending

Sunday, October 12th, was our last whale watch of the 2008 season. I found it very difficult to leave Jeffrey's Ledge with so many whales around. We started our trip a bit inshore of Jeffrey's with many diffferent adult Fin whales. Throughout our trip we also encountered many different pods of Harbor porpoise and were even lucky enough to see a Basking Shark. Once we reached the Ledge, we were pleased to find 3 adult Humpback whales, Rouge, Kohoutek, and Spoon! Rouge was traveling alone while Spoon and Kohoutek stayed together, feeding the entire time. It was great to see old "friends" on the Ledge for one last time. For me, the highlight of the trip came towards the end. We were lucky enough to finish our trip with 3 Northern Right Whales. Two of them were travelling together and spending the majority of their time at the water's surface. We watched from a distance as they raised their heads high above the surface and one of them even spy-hopped to get a good look around. With so few left in the world, I couldn't think of a better way to end our season. It was truely remarkable. Many thanks to everyone at Blue Ocean, Granite State Whale Watch, and all our passengers for another great season. I am already counting the days until next May!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Grand Finale

Although I am sad to see the whale watch season come to an end, I am very pleased with our last trip's sightings. We began this beautiful day passing by what seemed to be endless pods of harbor porpoises. These little friends were everywhere! On southern Jeffreys, we had a few looks at Valley, a female humpback whale who was moving pretty slowly and surfaced pretty close to our motionless boat.

After that, we moved north a bit to find, to our happy surprise, three right whales! Two were together, rolling at the surface, and lifting their enormous heads and flukes out of the water. The third was just a little further away. We sat quietly and watched these endangered animals frolic for a bit, not seeming to have a care in the world. It is truly amazing to be in the presence of right whales as their population is so small, and to think that they may not be here in 50 years. We were all very thankful for the experience. As we were enjoying the sights, a sei whale cruised by and a dozen small land birds of various species were fluttering all around our boat much to the delight of the passengers.

As we headed for home, glowing from such a wonderful last trip, we encountered more whales! This was a pair of humpbacks and as soon as the larger one lifted her tail, we immediately knew who she was. Pinball and her new calf!!! Pinball is one of our 4 humpbacks available for adoption and she has only been seen once this summer by our staff. Pinball and her calf were moving south at a steady rate, and the calf, nearing its weaning time and showing some independence, was beginning to stray a bit from Pinball.

I can't imagine a better way to end the season. For all of you who came out with us this summer, thank you! And we hope to see you back with us (and the whales) next year!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Ending on a High Note

We finished up our season on the Atlantic Queen yesterday, and I'm sorry to see the season ending. It seems like summer just started! We ended on a high note, though. We started out with a pair of fin whales, and have identified one as "Trax," a whale first seen by BOS just last year but whose sightings records at Allied Whale in Bar Harbor date back to 1979! This whale has a very distinctive set of prop scars on its right side.


Then we were lucky enough to see a right whale, our third of the season! As one of the most endangered large whales with only an estimated 400 remaining worldwide, this was a great sighting! We were fortunate to see it gracefully lift its enormous fluke before we left. We also saw lots of harbor porpoise throughout the trip and even a few tuna.

If we identify the other fin whale and the right whale, I'll post more information about them here this week. We'll look forward to seeing you in 2009!

A plastic bag 20 miles offshore.
We'll be tabulating our litter data soon to see if plastic bags were again one of the top items seen offshore.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Finishing Strong!

Even though this upcoming weekend is our last one of the 2008 season, the whales don't want to say good-bye. Aboard the Granite State, we were treated to lots of "whale friends" new and old, over the last couple of days. On Wednesday, we had 5 different whale species, along with a harbor seal and ocean sunfish. One of many highlights that day, was a sighting of a Northern Right whale...with less than 400 in the world, that alone made our day. We were also treated to a pair of familiar faces...two female Humpbacks, Valley and Fan. These two were feeding the whole time and Fan even rolled over at one point.

Today proved to be just as plentiful. More Humpbacks, Fin whales, Minkes, and Right whales once again! We spent the majority of our time with a mother and calf Humpback pair...Partition and calf. Both mom and calf rolled over at one point, showing thier long flippers above the surface. We finished our trip with a sighting of a nice Fin whale and another Humpback pair...Quote and calf. It's shaping up to be a nice weekend on Jeffrey's Ledge. This is our last weekend to spend quality time with the whales. I know I am already looking forward to May 2009! Please join us.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Marine life galore!

Today was an awesome day with sightings throughout the trip- harbor porpoises, harbor seals, minke whales, fin whales, sei whales, humpback whales, an ocean sunfish and possibly and elusive BLUE whale!!

We began with the porpoises, minke and fin whales. From there we found a sei whale near a pair of adult humpbacks (Regulus and Glo-Stick).

In the close distance, Owl and her calf were breaching and flipper slapping!!! So wonderful to see since Owl is one of our adoptable whales and hasn't been seen on the ledge since mid July. Owl and her calf then joined up with the 2 adults and all 3 adults began flippering in synch! What an amazing sight!!!

As we were running low on time, we skirted the area and found Quote and her calf being escorted by Flask, another adoptable whale!!! So great to see him as well! Flask's tail adorns the back of our t-shirts and sweatshirts.

The trip wasn't over yet though. A fin whale, several more humpbacks and possibly a BLUE whale were also observed in the area. The elusive Blue was not cooperative and we never did get definative images of it, but as another boat had reported it earlier in the day, we are certain we caught a glimpse of it, even if it did not want to be seen.

As our season winds down, be sure to come out for one last chance of whale watching next weekend before the boats haul out on dry land.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Humpbacks Plentiful Today!

We had another great trip on the Atlantic Queen today, with lots of humpbacks around! We saw a few harbor porpoise on the way out, then spent time with two humpbacks, Mantis (born in 1998) and Venom (born in 1996).



We also saw some sei whales, a fairly rare sighting for the area. This was only the second time we've seen sei whales this year! The two whales were rolling just under the water surface, apparently feeding on something.

We then moved on to 3 more humpbacks, our adopt-a-whale and unofficial mascot, Flask (first seen in 1982) and a 25-year old female named Quote and her calf. We got terrific looks at all the whales, as they spent lots of time at the surface and fluked consistently, so we often got to see their massive tails as they dove down.

QuoteQuote's calf

Were you out with us this weekend? What did you think? Feel free to leave a comment!

One more weekend left of whale watching - we hope to see you soon!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Amazing stuff!

Today we were treated to the extremely rare sighting of 4 north Atlantic right whales. As Jen posted below, right whales are highly endangered so to see just one is a special event. One right whale was particularly active and jumped out of the water a couple of times, much to the delight of our visitors. Some researchers suggest that right whales may only be around for the next 50-200 years so we really felt privileged to be among them today.

Surprising Sightings!

What a day! We ended a gorgeous weekend with a terrific trip. We started off seeing some very active Atlantic white-sided dolphins. The pod just seemed to grow as we watched them, we estimated we ended up with about 75!

Then on to the craziness of the day. We came upon two sei whales, a species rarely seen here, and then were astounded when not one, but two, North Atlantic right whales came into view! At an estimated 400 remaining worldwide, it is always awe-inspiring when we see this species, which often only happens once or twice a season.

Two right whales together
(note: this is a cropped photo)

Right whales were named because they were considered the "right" whale to hunt by whalers, who sought their thick blubber (fat) layer and their long (up to 8') baleen plates. The photos we took today will allow the two whales to be identified (when we get their ID's, we'll try to post more about them here!) using the master right whale catalog maintained by the New England Aquarium, and hopefully aid in our attempts to learn more about this species and how to protect them.
Update on 9/22: One of the right whales we saw has been identified as #2340- a male first documented in 1993 and seen on Jeffreys Ledge in 2004 by researchers from Whale Center of New England. This is the whale that we saw the most during the trip. I'll let you know if we identify the other!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Humpbacks return!

Today was a beautiful day for watching whales. We began our day with a pair of finback whales. They were staying under water for 8 minutes but otherwise sticking around the area. While watching these two, we spotted another blow to the north. This turned out to be a young humpback whale. We haven't seen humpbacks since late August so this was a nice surprise! Another finback popped up and the humpback lost us. Fortunately, a second humpback was sighted not too far away. This one was feeding and surfacing very close to our boat, giving everyone a great view of it's bumpy snout, clipped dorsal fin, white flippers and, eventually, its tail! Though we couldn't ID this whale during the trip, I just found this little bugger in our larger catalog- it is Filament's 2007 calf, which will be given a name next spring. Here are some images of this whale filtering water from its mouth, as well as its notched fin and distinctive fluke.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Fin whales, dolphins and a mola!

What a beautiful day, with glassy calm seas and blue skies. We started out with a fin whale who was taking long dives, and we didn't get great looks at it. But things definitely improved from there! We moved on to find a pod of about 75 Atlantic white-sided dolphins, and they were very active, with several breaches and lots of tail-lobs and splashing!
Dolphins are one of my favorite sightings on calm days, because you can follow them underwater so well and see their beautiful coloration.

We also saw an ocean sunfish, or Mola mola, and then finished up with a dramatic look at a familiar fin whale, #0354, a whale we've seen every year since 2003! This whale has a distinctive dorsal fin with three notches, so it's fairly easy to distinguish it from other whales that visit the Jeffreys Ledge area.

Fin whale #0354 in our local catalog

I look forward to getting out again. Fall is usually a great time to be out on the water!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Fin Whales as Far as We Could See

Wow! There were so many fin whales around today, I lost count. On the Atlantic Queen, I believe we saw at least 16 of them! It is so rare to be surrounded by whales, having blows everywhere we look. At one point, there were about 13 whales all within one miles of eachother. Fin whales are probably my favorite species to watch. Every time I see one I'm amazed at how huge they are, and how graceful.
As we left to head back to Rye, several whales came together. Below is a photo of our friends on the Granite State, surrounded by blows!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Big fins and little fins

The past few days have been packed with cetaceans, big and small. Many finback whales have moved into the area and are sometimes escorted by groups of Atlantic white sided dolphins! Seeing a "tiny" (7-9 feet long) dolphin pop up right next to a huge, 70-foot long finback whale is one of my favorite sights on Jeffreys Ledge.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What a big girl!!

We have been having some nice whale watches lately and it continued through this weekend. We had three female Humpback whales move into Jeffrey's Ledge on Friday. Rapier was feeding on her own, while Filament and Clipper were travelling together. We saw them off and on throughout the weekend and ended Sunday afternoon very unexpectedly. Clipper treated us to a very rare breaching display several times. It was hard to believe that this big female could launch herslef out of the water with such ease. I believe this was helping her with some digestive issues she was having...being downwind of her, the odor was not pleasant! :) We have one more full-time week of whale watching, then we start our fall schedule. Hope to see you in September.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Clipper and friends still on the Ledge

Clipper, Filament, Hornbill and Rapier are still hanging out on Jeffreys Ledge. Yesterday Clipper and Filament, who have been seen together for the past few days now, surprised us by surfacing very close to our bow! These two had been acting pretty lazy, moving slowly and barely lifting their tails, so it was quite a surprise to look behind us and see Clipper clearing the water several times after we had left the area. The splash she made was enormous!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Clipper returns to Jeffreys Ledge

Had a great day today on the Atlantic Queen, with looks at one fin whale and two humpbacks. The fin whale zig-zagged all over the place, similar to how our fin whale behaved yesterday. Then we spent lots of time withe two familiar humpbacks, "Clipper," a 26-year old female and "Filament," a 19-year old female. We've seen both of these whales on Jeffreys before, but not for awhile. It's always nice to see these old friends return!

Clipper looked just enormous! She's a big humpback (humpbacks usually are at least the length of a school bus, anyway!) but seemed really wide. She had her last calf three years ago... perhaps there will be a new little Clipper up here next year?

The weather was just beautiful today. Seas were just choppy enough to make it interesting. Looks like we'll have another great day tomorrow, and with all the whales around, I'm excited to get back out there!

(haven't had a chance to upload pics yet, but they'll be coming soon)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Fabulous Friday - beautiful weather & lots of whales

It appears the humpbacks have returned, at least for now! We spent time with one today (still waiting on confirmation of its ID) that was moving steadily, slowly southeast.
Talking to other boats afterward it appears there were others in the area, too! We also spent time with a fin whale and got great looks at a minke - it's always great to see three different species in one trip!
Weather is looking great for this weekend. Come join us before summer's over!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Blue Shark

It's exactly what it looks like...
I believe this was 0813 who was literally just rocking the boat with waves.

Mom + Calf pair, and Male

I meant to put these pictures up before! With the recent weather and surprising Pilot whale/Fin Whale sitings, I think I can speak for most of the interns when i say that this has really been a great way to end the summer. Thank you so much Blue Ocean for this awesome experience. I hope to do research with you again one day :)