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, October 17, 2010

October 10th and 12th on the Granite State

The end of the whale watching season is always a busy time as we get in our last few trips of the year and get the boat ready for its winter home on solid ground. While this post may be a bit delayed it is well worth sharing with those of you who were able to join us for our last adventures or enjoy reading some of our last updates from Jeffreys Ledge for the 2010 season.

Our last public trip was Sunday the 10th and after postponing our final school trip twice due to highly unfavorable weather conditions we were able to get our last whale watching trips under our belt. While our trips were quickly dwindling down the whales, including many of the recently seen animals, were still in the area.

On Sunday we found 5 Humpback whales and 1 Fin whale. Trident and Spoon were spotted surfacing together as the two of them appeared to be "logging" or resting at the surface. Every now and then we get the opportunity to watch such massive creatures "hover" on the waterline as they take a few minutes nap. Watching two full grown adult female whales, (for baleen whales the females are typically larger than males) easily weighing well over 20-tons, remaining stationary as the ocean waves peruse pass such large masses in the water is quite the site. With such amazing looks we left these two sleeping ladies in search of other cetaceans.

Soon we found another pair of Humpback whales. This time it was Nile and Tornado. Another duo of females steadily moving through the water together. With some quality time spent with these two whales and time still left to do some exploring we headed further offshore.

Our trip ended with a zig-zagging Fin whale and another Humpback whale. We attempted to check out the Fin whale in the area but this whale was surfacing very sporadically. We managed a few good looks as this whale was surfacing in all different directions before deciding to press on. Our final whale of the day was Wizard the Humpback whale before we headed back towards towards Rye Harbor.


We had great whale sightings and great passengers to spend our final public whale watch of the season with. Thanks to all of you who made the trip to New England, whether short or far, to catch a glimpse at some of the largest animals in the world!

Tuesday October 12th the weather was cooperating and thanks to our very patient school group we were off for one more adventure. While the ocean conditions ended up providing quite the ride, the whales provided quite the show. We first found a trio of Humpback whales. It was Trident cruising through the water with Owl and her calf.

Trident and Owl

It is a bit on the rare side, but not unusual, to encounter another whale associated with a mother and her calf. The calf remained nearby its mom the whole time we were watching it, but Owl did not seem to mind having Trident nearby.

Owl and her calf close by

Owl's unique pigmentation pattern

Our travels continued as we found another pair of Humpback whales. However, just as these animals went down on deeper dives out in the distance there was a huge splash, then another, and yet another! Turned out there were two more Humpback whales out in the distance. One was full body breaching and the other lobtailing. Well it didn't take long to decide to head over in that direction and see if these two animals were going to continue such displays. Talk about fortunate! One whale, Patches, was consistently flipper slapping, bringing its very large white flippers above the water and smacking it back down on the surface of the ocean. The other whale, later identified as Equation, was continuously lobtailing, raising the back portion of its body high into the air before smacking it back on the water too.
Equation even decided to tail breach at one point while Patches surfaced nearby.

The aftermath of a large whale crashing its body on the surface of the water!

This, and other, activity continued for some time before both animals "calmed" down by coming up for breaths of air and then diving back under the water; much more normal behaviors seen when watching whales.

The flipper of Patches and the dorsal fin of Equation

With a bit more time to explore the area we left these two Humpbacks and found a few more.

Chromosome and Scylla were our last stop on whales. It was such a treat seeing many of the same animals still in the same relative area they have been over the last few days as well as a few surprise visitors to the area.

Scylla and Chromosome

What a fantastic way to end such an incredible season of whale watching. Many thanks to everyone over the course of the year that joined us in search of such magnificent creatures as we will ever so anxiously await what the 2011 whale watching season will have in store for us!

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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sunday 10/10/10 on the Atlantic Queen

What a way to end our season! Humpbacks were plentiful, and only about 12 miles from the harbor!

We started out with Nile and Tornado, two female humpbacks that we've seen many times. Nile was born in 1987, and Tornado was born in 1988. These whales afforded us several great looks at their huge flukes as they dove down.


Tornado (L), Nile (R)

Then we moved on to spend time with Trident (one of my favorite whales!), a 28-year old female, and Spoon, a female first seen in 1977. 


We watched Trident and Spoon for awhile, and then saw Nile and Tornado again, but a 3rd whale, Wizard (a female born in 1990), had joined them!


After some great looks at these 3 whales together, we looked out in the distance, and saw a breach!

Trident and Spoon were breaching, lob-tailing and flipper-slapping! So we slowly moved toward them for some last, spectacular looks before we headed toward Rye.  We had a nice ride in through the Isles of Shoals - a great way to end this fantastic (whale-tastic?!) season!

Spoon on her side - 1/2 of her tail, and a flipper

Thanks to all the enthusiastic passengers who joined us today, and to Sue (Happy Birthday!), Heather and Kevin for your help.  We look forward to seeing you again next year, if not sooner!

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Friday, October 8, 2010

October 8th on the Granite State

The weather has been keeping us on solid ground for almost a week but the weather cooperated enough for us today to make our way out towards Jeffreys Ledge. With our hardy passengers we were off in search of some cetacean activity. And whales we found!

Our first stop was on a single Humpback whale that appeared to be staying put until during one dive sequence, the whale maneuvered further away. While waiting for this animal to come back to the surface in the distance suddenly another whale spout was seen, and then another! We actually ended up having 5 whales in total in the area. While all these animals were spread out, we were lucky enough to get a chance to spend time with all of them.

We first saw Trident and watched her go down on a deeper dive before seeing two more animals not far away.


It was Spoon and Chromosome. All three of these Humpbacks (Trident, Spoon and Chromosome) were seen the last time we were out whale watching, but that was almost a week ago and yet all three were still in close proximity of each other! Even more fascinating was the fact the Spoon and Chromosome were simultaneously surfacing and diving together. 6 day ago these two whales were doing the same thing!

Spoon exhaling at the surface with Chromosome alongside

While we have no idea if these two whale stayed nearby each other all week or if they just recently rejoined together again, it was still quite the excitement to have them still on Jeffreys Ledge!

Spoon was flipper-slapping for a bit showcasing her extremely long pectoral fin, or flipper

Spoon (above) and Chromosome (below)

Our last pair of whales turned out to be the same single we had started our trip with but had apparently decided to swim in association with Wizard.

We saw this particular whale last year a couple of times but today was our first sighting for Wizard for the 2010 season.

Wizard rolling over as a portion of its flipper and tail can be seen above the water

Even with our season quickly coming to a close, we are still seeing more familiar whale tails taking advantage of all that Jeffreys Ledge has to offer. What a great way to start the last weekend of our whale watching season this year!

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October 8- Prince of Whales- Newburyport

After a week of rain, it was quite nice to see the sun again! And some whales too!

We began with a wiggly fin whale who seemed to be moving all over the place. After a few surfacings we got lucky and happened to be near it when it came up, allowing us some good looks. It seemed strange that the second largest animal on the planet was so difficult to see!

Fin whale

Then we got a call from our friends on the Granite State- a whale watch boat from Rye. They had seen several humpback whales in the area so we cruised over towards them to check out the whales.

We found 4 humpback whales- 2 pairs. We stayed with one pair as they were slowly swimming to the west. This pair was 2 humpbacks that we know well- Spoon and Chromosome! Spoon is still my favorite even though she wouldn't lift her tail today. Chromosome was pretty lazy as well, though he did show us a few tail flicks.

Spoon surfacing very close to the boat!

Chromosome and Spoon

Chromosome almost lifting his flukes!
All in all, a beautiful blustery day on the water! I can't believe that tomorrow is our last trip on the Prince of Whales! Will we see you out there with us?

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Saturday, October 2, 2010

October 2nd on the Granite State

With whales quite inshore of Jeffreys Ledge today we were fortunate enough to get a chance to spend time with just about everything that appeared to be in the area today. Chatting via radio with our friends on the Prince of Whales we both shared the wealth of so many sightings and may have very similar posts from today's adventure!

Today was all about the Humpback whale. We had a total of 9 whales, 7 of them being known females! Many of the whales we sighted today have been seen over the years on Jeffreys Ledge and are some of our favorite Humpbacks for all of us crew.

Spoon above and Chromosome below as these 2 Humpback whales were associated with each other. Spoon is an adult female and Chromosome may be a male since this whale is considered an adult (at least 19yrs old) and has never been seen with a calf

The dorsal fins of Trident (above) and Nile (below) both known females and moving through the water together

Owl the Humpback whale and her prominent scars from a previous ship strike during her life. Fortunately she was able to survive the ordeal as she has continued to be a mom, including this year! She had her last calf in 2008.

Some of the whales we sighted today have had sighting few and far between over the years on Jeffreys Ledge and so we were pleasantly surprised to encounter a few of them.

Victim, Spar and Pinball all resting at the surface
Spar's fluke
Victim's fluke. Notice this whale is missing half of the right side of its tail
Pinball raising her tail high above the water. Pinball is a "regular" to Jeffreys Ledge but she hasn't been seen since July 31; just over 2 months! Nice to see you again Pinball!

Not only were most of our whales known females today, all the whales sighted were associated with at least one other individual, and many of them were "logging." Logging is a term used to indicate when whales are sleeping, or resting, at the surface. The whale will remain almost stationary on, or just under, the surface of the water while it shuts down half of its brain for periods at a time. To see multiple whales, weighing well over 20tons, hovering just at the surface of the water is quite the sight to see!

Just as we thought our day was over and we were about to head back towards Rye Harbor there was splashing out in the distance. There were dolphins nearby! Off we went as we ended up coming across a pod of 40 Atlantic white-sided dolphins. What a special treat to end an already incredible day!Today we were lucky enough to have cooperative weather and especially whales as we thank all of you who joined us today for such a eventful day!

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October 2- Prince of Whales- Newburyport

What a surprise!! After a week of being on land with lots of wind and rain , we had no idea what we would find today. As luck would have it, a couple fishermen who left ahead of us spotted a couple blows relatively close to shore. We cruised in that direction, and with the help of our friends on the Granite State (Rye Harbor), we ended up looking at 9 different humpback whales!!! A few of these whales had not been seen in our area all season, hence our excitement!

We began with Owl and her calf. Owl was born in 1986 and is one of our Adoptable Whales
We typically see Owl every year but this was the first time we had seen her all season!! She and her calf were moving slowly, and the calf may have been nursing while Owl was resting near the surface.

Owl's distinctive injury likely caused by a boat collision when she was just 2-3 years old.

Our next group of humpback whales included a trio: Pinball (another Adoptable whale), Spar and Victim- three females, and two of whom are rarely seen near Jeffreys Ledge.
Victim's distinctive flukes- notice the damaged right corner

Dorsal fins of the three ladies of the ledge

Next up was a great surprise for me- my all-time favorite whale, Spoon (first seen in 1977!) and Chromosome, the only male seen today (first seen in 1991). Chromosome was a familiar whale last season, having been seen frequently with Tripod (who had a calf this year). Spoon lived up to her notorious lazy nature by being very slow moving and barely lifting her flukes.


Chromosome- the solo male of the day!

Also in the distance were two more humpback whales that the Granite State ID'ed for us as Trident and Nile- two more adult females!

Truly an awesome day with lots of slow moving, sleepy whales :)

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Saturday, September 25, 2010

September 25- Prince of Whales- Newburyport

What an awesome day on Jeffreys Ledge today! Our last day on the water was Thursday, when we found five fin whales, a minke whale, porpoises and seals. Today, in about the same area, we also had a minke whale, porpoises and seals, but also seven humpback whales! This is why I love fall whale watching- you really never know what to expect from day to day!

After passing by minkes and porpoises, we spotted our first blow. The pair that we thought we were approaching was actually a group of 4! Grommet dove first, showing us his flukes. This whale hasn't been seen on Jeffreys Ledge since 2006, but with those unique markings, was easy to ID. Grommet

Next was Trident, a 28 year old female who was our favorite from last season after she breached over 40 times in a row on one trip! Today was a bit different for her as she was sleeping, or logging as we call it but we did get some great looks at her.

The other two took their time in showing us their flukes but based on the dorsal fins, and who the Granite State saw yesterday, I assumed these were Spoon and Fan- 2 adult females who have a history of hanging out with each other.

Fan- showing her unique scar that she was named for-this marking was caused by an orca/killer whale attack when she was much younger.

And finally, Spoon, a whale first identified in 1977(!) , decided to show us her flukes, confirming her ID. Spoon is my all-time favorite whale. I "adopted" her when I was a teenager and have followed her ever since! She is notorious for being lazy- or not lifting her flukes- so I was excited to see her pick her tail up, even if it was not the greatest look- it was just enough!
As mentioned in the Granite State blog yesterday, Spoon did have a calf this year (her 9th that we know about) but was not seen with it today. We are still unsure of the fate of her calf but are hopeful that it weaned a bit early, and is off on its own now. Typically, humpback whale calves spend 10 months with their mom so it is well possible that her calf is "all grown up" and is exploring its new world.

Next, we ventured out a few more miles and came upon a trio of whales: Echo, her new calf, and Evolution. These whales were much more active than our sleepy foursome seen earlier. Echo, last seen on Jeffreys Ledge in 2003, is quite distinctive as well also showing rake marks(caused by orca teeth) from an encounter with an orca early in her life.
Echo's calf, Echo and Evolution surfacing side by side

Echo- notice the "rake" marks on her lower left fluke

These whales were quite wiggly, charging all around and not moving in any expected pattern. Likely, they were feeding and chasing around fish or krill.

Certainly an amazing day on the water! Thanks to all of our new and returning passengers for your enthusiasm today! And a special thanks to those of you who donated to our cause. We greatly appreciate your support so we can continue of studies of the whales on Jeffreys Ledge as well as our conservation programs on land. The whales thank you as well!

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