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.

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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Friday, September 24, 2010

September 24th on the Granite State

Well it is officially Fall even though over the past few days the temperature has made it felt much more like summer. While the weather tends to be a bit more unpredictable at this time of the year, the whales are still searching for food out on Jeffreys Ledge, and today was no exception.

We ended up spending our time with 3 Humpback whales today. All three whales were adults and all three of them were females! We saw Trident, Spoon and Fan.


These particular whales have been seen many times over the years on Jeffreys Ledge but today was the first time we aboard the Granite State got a chance to see these animals this season. Both Trident and Fan were seen during the 2009 season on Jeffreys Ledge but it has been 2 years since we've been lucky enough to see Spoon in our area! What a pleasant surprise especially knowing it has been almost a week since our last whale watching adventure due to recent wind conditions over the past few days.

Another interesting fact is that all three whales are reproductive females, meaning they have given birth to calves in the past! While Fan and Trident haven't given birth to a calf in a couple of years, Spoon became a mom to another calf this past winter. She was one of the first Humpback whales to be seen with her calf for the 2010 season which was exciting hear the news. However, today we saw no calf. No calf on the outskirts of the area. No calf intermingled within this trio of whales circling the area. As quickly as we were excited to see it was Spoon today, we were equally as quickly concerned. What happened to Spoon's calf?

Unfortunately I do not know the last time this pair was seen together this season and we can only hope that perhaps the calf has already been weened. Typically a calf will stay with its mother for 6-10 months before it goes off on its own to live its own solitary life. We all hope this is the case as the other potential option is not so uplifting. It is possible the calf may not have survived. There are many reasons for a calf to not make it through its first year: genetic disorders, a mother's neglect, ship strikes, entanglements in fishing gear... The list goes on and on. Just as children are born with disorders or diseases, whales can have similar fates except in their case there is no medical treatment, no doctors, no machines to help cure them. While we may never know what happened to Spoon's 2010 calf we can hope one day we will see this whale back on the feeding grounds of the Gulf of Maine taking advantage of all the productivity associated with this body of water.

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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Great Day aboard The Atlantic Queen

I had not been out on the boat for a week and I was excited to finally get out again. We are just whale watching weekends on The Atlantic Queen until Columbus Day. There are still plenty of whales around! Today brought us alot of variety. Our first animals of the day were some Harbor Porpoise, about 10 animals not being as shy as they usually are, next an Ocean Sunfish (Mola Mola), Atlantic blue Fin Tuna and then in the distance the distinctive blow of a Northern Right whale, We kept our distance from this critically endangered whale. We could see at least 2 other blows from 2 other Right whales also. We continued on our journey and found 2 Humpback whales. The first animal was quite shy, but we were thrilled to see a Humpback again. As we left we came across another Humpback, this animal fluked for us and gave us some great looks! Don't let the cool weather keep you inside come out and see all of the marine life still abundant on the Ledge. Thank you to ALL our customers today, I enjoyed talking with you and thank you for ALL your support!

September 18 on the Granite State

People often wonder how long whales will stay in the area before they start migrating south for the winter. Many of the whales we see will actually stay well into October and even November feasting on as much food as possible before making the long journey hundreds of miles south for a few months. While the weather may be a bit cooler 20+ miles offshore, the whales are still taking full advantage of all that Jeffreys Ledges has to offer in terms of food productivity! Today was a prime example that whales continue to still be present!

Our first stop on whales today was a group of Atlantic white-sided dolphins. It was quite the nice surprise to find these whales as it has been a week since seeing our last pod of this species. This grouping of around 40 individuals were just milling about the area and was a great find to start our trip today.

Our next finding offshore was a baleen whale, it was a Fin whale. Did you know you only see about 1/3 of the entire length of a Fin whale at the surface of the water at any point in time? These extremely massive whales are such a delight to watch as the second largest animals in the world rise to the surface to get a few breaths of air before disappearing back under the water barely creating a disturbance. Such sleek, giant, mammals.
Just before heading back to the harbor we ended up getting a chance to see yet another baleen whale. There was a critically endangered Right whale out in the distance! As we sat and watched from afar as this whale continued it's daily activities of moving through the water, it was a moment to realize just how special of a sighting this was. Just about all the large whales we see during our adventures to Jeffreys Ledge are endangered animals, whales that were hunted in mass quantities during the days of whaling, and now which are federally protected here in the US waters. But to have a species that is so endangered scientists fear Right whales could potentially go extinct in our lifetime(!!!), such a rare sighting provides an incredible platform to have the public really see the impact and importance for conservation aspects for all whales. To be lucky enough to have one of these whales pass by the area, knowing that you are in the presence of THE rarest species of whales in the North Atlantic, really showcases the need for conservation and research organizations in the area. The Blue Ocean Society was created to, and continues to, strive to promote the necessity for the conservation of all marine life here in the New England area by educating the public and conducting research. Working in conjunction with such an organization combined with our dedicated life-long boat captains for our trips to Jeffreys Ledge brings hopes to protect such impressive mammals full-circle as to why these dedicated people do what they do. Providing the opportunity to see any type cetacean and sharing knowledge about some of the largest life in the world is an experience we hope will continue to be remembered and witnessed for years to come.

On our journey home we even passed by our final baleen whale of the day, a Minke whale. While we watched as this whale went down on a deeper dive it was a great reminder that whales can really be seen as any point of time, whether on our way out or coming back, from Jeffreys Ledge.

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

September 11 on the Granite State

Well the ocean decided to keep us on our toes today as the wind (and soon thereafter the waves) picked up a bit this morning making for quite the adventure to start the day. This afternoon was quite different however, as the wind shifted direction and the water began to calm down providing quite a different experience in just a few short hours offshore. A quick glimpse of just how quickly Mother Nature can change here in New England. While the wind may have been constantly different today, the whales were fantastic whether we saw them during our morning trip or our afternoon whale watch.

This morning we started whale watching many miles inshore of Jeffreys Ledge as we ended up coming across two different Fin whales. We got some great looks at one of these animals as it was only staying under the water for 5 minutes at a time and not travelling too quickly in any particular direction. With our hardy passengers on board we ventured a bit further offshore this morning and our efforts paid off as we ended up coming into an area where we were seeing multiple whales.

We got a chance to watch multiple Sei whales zig-zagging through the water and even had a highly endangered Right whale on the outskirts of our Sei whales. Multiple individuals of different species, wow! Our Sei whales kept surfacing all around the boat it provided quite the challenge to keep up with all of them. A nice conundrum to have, not knowing where to look to see all of our whales!

This afternoon we were on our way to Jeffreys Ledge when we had a Fin whale surface pretty close to us! To see the second largest animal on earth surface nearby is pretty astonishing, but to have one surface unexpectedly is a surprise in itself as you suddenly see such a massive being emerge from the depths of the ocean with such ease. With a few looks at this whale we were back underway in search of more whale activity.

A few more miles offshore we were pleasantly surprised to see some splashing at the surface. It was a pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins! It's been exactly 3 weeks since our last opportunity of seeing these whales so it was quite the treat. We typically do not see theses whales often since on average Atlantic white-sided dolphins are only sighted 20% of the time we go whale watching in a season. A nice sighting to spend a bit of time with.

As we pressed on further offshore we started to see multiple exhalations from whales in the distance. Turns out we had found quite the gaggle of Fin whales and Sei whales. We were able to get some looks at one of the Fin whales moving through this portion of Jeffreys Ledge as more Fin whales and Sei whales kept surfacing out in the distance in every direction around us!

The dorsal fin of our Fin whale

These whales were constantly changing direction at the surface of the water many times it did not take long to see one of these whales no matter where you happened to be looking around the boat.

Our last whales of the day turned out to be yet other species of whales from those sighted earlier! We ended up spending some time with a Humpback whale that was spending a lot of time on the surface.

The back and dorsal fin of our Humpback whale

This whale was only staying under the water for 1-3 minutes at a time before getting a breath of air and diving back under again and again. While spending time with this whale our passengers were treated to a Right whale out in the distance that cruised past the area. At one point in time we had our Humpback on one side of the boat and such an incredibly rare (and extremely endangered!) Right whale further out on the other side. What a moment.

Thanks to all who joined us today as another successful day to Jeffreys Ledge was full of surprises and excitement of all sorts!

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Friday, September 10, 2010

September 10 on the Granite State

It was a "Grand Slam" for us today as we watched 4 different species of baleen whales during our trip this afternoon. Our first whales sighted included Minke whales and even a Right whale out in the distance as we made our way towards Jeffreys Ledge. The main attraction however were definitely the fast-swimming cetaceans of the sea today.

We came into an area where we had at least 4 (and at one point at least 5!) Sei whales surfacing on either side of the boat. These animals are the fastest baleen whales in the world, easily reaching speeds over 30mph! These whales are extremely fast swimmers but were being extremely "cooperative" or at least as cooperative as a wild animal can be today! While our Sei whales were constantly changing direction and slicing through the water with such ease, they were not using their speed to cruise through the area, rather to utilize their quick maneuverability to take full advantage of the productive feeding grounds of this portion of Jeffreys Ledge! At one point no matter where you were standing, there was one of these super streamlined whales at the surface.

Two of our Sei whales scooting around the area. Note the slightly different shapes of the dorsal fins each of these whales have.

After watching these animals zig and zag all around we decided to check out some of the other spouts we were seeing from whales not too far away. We ended up coming across yet another baleen whale, it was a Fin whale.

The dorsal fin of one of our Fin whales. Fin whales typically have a less tall and broad dorsal fin than that of Sei whales.

This Fin whale was also circling the area and as we spent more time with this whale, we soon realized we had 2 Fin whales in this area! Fin whales are not only one of the largest whales in the world, they are also the second fastest. These whales can reach bursts of speeds traveling over 20mph! However, just like the fast Sei whales were were watching earlier, the Fin whales were also not showcasing their speedy abilities. These whales were concentrating on a certain area as both animals joined up and were changing direction every time they surfaced. How two whales weighing over 60tons each can synchronize their movements with each other with such erratic surfacings is something that never ceases to amaze me. Grace, beauty and such strength in the second largest creatures on the planet!

Our Fin whales surfacing just in front of the other

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Monday, September 6, 2010

September 6- Prince of Whales- Newburyport

Happy Labor Day!

A beautiful day on the water after the remnants of Hurricane Earl passed by this weekend. The wind certainly stirred things up a bit but we were luck to find a few right whales on Jeffreys Ledge today. As we approached the ledge, a single right whale appeared. I am still excited to see these whales in the area even though we can't get close to them. Our second sighting was a pair of right whales- a mother and calf pair!! Only 19 calves were born last winter so this was truly a rare sighting! From the distant looks we did get, I (shockingly) was able to ID this whale as Bugs, a 28-year old mother I had seen off of South Carolina this past winter! YAY! So happy to know that Bugs and her calf are doing well in spite of all the challenges they face in our modern world. Thanks to all of you on board for your interest and compassion for these rare sightings!

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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Wednesday, September 1 on the Atlantic Queen

Two Sei Whales
It was a great start to September!  The seas were incredibly calm, despite all the media buzz about Hurricane Earl. Really, we couldn't have asked for a better day on the ocean.

After starting off with a small pod of harbor porpoise on our way out, who gave us unusually great looks, we headed out to Jeffreys Ledge, where we found several sei whales and 1-2 North Atlantic right whales!

Sei Whale

We had amazing looks at the sei whales today - several times, 4-5 whales surfaced together and circled near the boat, obviously in pursuit of something! Then we noticed another group of 2-3 more sei whales nearby.  In the area, we also had 1-2 North Atlantic right whales, one of the most endangered large whale species (~425 left in the world) - it's always so humbling to get even a distant look at one of these whales, especially knowing all they go through as they attempt to navigate and feed in the Gulf of Maine and along the East Coast.

Sei Whale

Thanks to all the great passengers who joined us today.  At least one gentleman I spoke to  (I wish I had gotten your name!) just seemed awestruck that we saw a right whale, and totally realized how fortunate we were - it's folks like you who make me love my job - thank you for appreciating this experience and for our great conversation about marine conservation!

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

September 1 - Prince of Whales- Newburyport

As folks are running around gathering supplies for the impending "hurricane", we spent the afternoon cruising the flat-calm waters of the Gulf of Maine in search of whales. Really, the seas could not have been any calmer!

Two minke whales greeted us near shore today- one gave us a wonderful view as it just circled the boat.

A bit further off shore our friend Hornbill, the humpback whale was seen but only briefly. He was true to his nature and was up for just a couple quick breaths and then went right back down. Hornbill the humpback whale

A bit further we found 2 fin whales- my favorite!!
This one might be Pemetic (#0312) but our images aren't quite good enough to know for sure. I hope to see this whale again soon so we can confirm its identity.

Fin whale surfacing

Fin whale- maybe #0312

Next, a couple of special whales surfaced- right whales!!! We shut the boat down and watched as these huge and very endangered whales took breaths at the surface and then gracefully dove. Soon, we got word from our friends on the Atlantic Queen of some sei whales in the area close by. We slowly motored that way and soon found ourselves among several more right whales!! What a special treat to find several of a critically endangered species among us! One of these whales even breached several times nearby! The rare of the rare!!

Soon we found our targeted species- the sei whales. Sei whales are also special treats for us as we don't see them very often in this area. To make the day even better, we saw 4 of these whales traveling together! Wonderful looks!!!

Sei whale
Two of the four sei whales!

Awesome day today!!! Thanks to Lulu and Abby for adopting Pinball too!!

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