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, June 30, 2011

June 30th, Granite State

Wow is the word I am going to use for today's trips! It's not that often that you have an experience where you have to choose which whales to watch because there are so many around! It's obviously a very nice problem to have, because it's better than not having enough or any to look at! For both the morning and afternoon trips we sighted multiple Fin whales, Humbacks, Minkes and even a very active pod of dolphins!

It's quite rare to have a grand slam of whales (4 species seen in one trip) during one trip, never mind 2 trips in one day. We are still in the process of trying to identify the Fin whales we had, however I will let you know that one of the whales from our morning trip was seen this past Tuesday, the 28th. It's so nice to know that some of these whales are staying close to Jeffrey's Ledge to take advantage of the plentiful amounts of food.

Several of our Humpbacks were identified. We saw Flicker and Literal travelling together in the morning, both of whom were seen for the first time in 2008. In the afternoon however, Flicker found a different whale to hang around with and as of right now, it is an unknown for us! We also found Striation, Quote's o8 calf, Lavalier's 09 calf, another unknown, and Ivory's 09 calf. Ivory's 09 calf is photographed below.

Quote's 08 calf, Ivory's 09 calf, and one of our unknown's for the day were found travelling together and they are photographed below.

We were able to spend quality time with all the whales we saw and when we were heading over to watch trio of whales that we had in the area during our morning trip, we noticed a disturbance in the water that looked different from the Humpbacks. It was a fair distance away, but when our captain looked through his binoculars, it became clear as to what else we had...a Northern Right whale! These whales are among the rarest of the baleen whales, with about 400 left in the world! I do have to say if someone were to ask me what I think I might see, that was definitely not it! They feed mainly on a species of animal plankton called a copepod, and this whale was surface skim feeding in the area. We kept our distance from this whale, where they are highly endangered and there are strict regulations in place to protect them. Seeing one Right whale is a high percentage of their population and they could easily go extinct within our lifetime. What a special moment it was for our crew and passengers.

Throughout the day we had a couple of active groups of dolphins and everyone had a blast with these playful toothed whales. They were certainly active and we were lucky enough to see a few calves in each pod that was spotted!

I want to thank all our passengers and crew for making today so special! Here's to a happy and safe July 4th weekend!

June 30 Prince of Whales

Lots of big whales today! We arrived on the Ledge and found several whales all around us but spread out. We focused on a humpback whale named Hornbill, a male first seen in 1977. A minke whale was in the area as well but was a bit elusive.

Hornbill's dorsal fin
Hornbill's flukes

As we were watching Hornbill, we saw another humpback whale nearby. We approached this whale and was happy to see another familiar tail- Nile! Nile is a female born in 1987 and has had 4 calves that we know about! She was feeding, blowing bubble clouds around a school of fish, and surfacing close to us several times!

Nile off the bow!
Nile's flukes- see the Nile River on the left?

We got a call from our friends on the Atlantic Queen II about another humpback whale nearby. This whale I knew even from a mile away- our old friend Satula (also one of our Adoptable Whales!). Another minke whale was around him too but was making itself scarce.


Although Satula had stinky breath he was giving us some excellent views.

On our way home we found a fin whale that was being followed by a lone Atlantic white sided dolphin. We watched this odd couple for a little but but the clock was ticking and we needed to get back to the dock.

Thanks to all of our enthusiastic passengers and congratulations to Keri and her family for winning the Satula Adoption Package in our raffle!

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Atlantic Queen June 29

e There was a bit of haze today which can make finding whales more difficult, as there are no electronics to help us find whales, we simply scan the horizon in hopes of finding whales. We found 2 fin whales, one minke and Siphon's 2009 calf. We covered alot of water but our efforts were well worth it. In my opinion being on the water in a whale's natural habit is a privilege, something not everyone my experience, whether is one whale or 10 it is always a great day.

Sorry for the late post about our trip yesterday! It turned out to be another fine day of whale watching.
Be sure to come out and see for yourself, happy summer!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

June 29th, Granite State

We started our day with hazy sunshine and left the dock wondering what today would bring. We saw our first whale of the day shortly after passing the Isles of Shoals, but it was travelling through the water so quickly that we had a difficult time finding out what type of whale it was. A dolphin perhaps, or a small Minke whale? Our curiousity got the best of us, so we tried to follow this whale. It turned out to be a small minke whale, most likely a juvenile, but it zooming through the water like nothing I have ever seen before. We spent a little time with this whale and when we tried to leave, it wouldn't let us! This minke whale seemed very curious about us and it was a great way to start our trip.

As we continued towards Jeffrey's Ledge, we spotted a couple of Fin whales travelling in different directions and had to chose which one to try and spend some time with. The other factor was the hazy horizon, which made it a little difficult to spot the tall exhalation from the whales. Luckily, the seas were fairly calm, so we could see their dark backs above the surface. One of the fin whales started swimming in our direction so we decided that this would be the whale we would try and watch, and it swam right by the boat giving all our passengers a great view as to how large it was!

We spotted lots of splashing not too far away from where our fin whale was and it turned out to be a large pod of dolphins. These were Atlantic white sided dolphins and there were at least 150 of them, spanning over 1/2 mile in all directions. They loved swimmming in our wake and were great fun for the little kids we had on board.

Once we left the dolphins we decided to check out an area where fisherman had reported whale activity earlier in the morning, not knowing if the whales would still be there...after all, they are constantly on the move looking for food. We searched for a little while and our searching paid off. We found yet another species of whale, a single Humpback whale. It turned out to be Siphon's 09 calf. What a great way to end our morning trip. We aslo had a quick glimpse at a blue shark and spotted fin whales on our way back to Rye harbor. We were excited to get back out there for our afternoon trip...

Our afternoon started with a few Minke whales as we headed back to Jeffrey's Ledge. As we continued on we came upon a single Fin whale that we wanted to spend some time with. We saw the whale one time before it slipped underneath the water and unfortunatley we never saw it again. We waited about 12 minutes in the area and the fin whale must have been travelling to a different area for more food. These large whales have the capability of holding their breath for over an hour, but most of the time they are using up so much energy during their feeding season, that they need to surface more often to breathe. This Fin whale had travelling on its mind and didn't stick around for us to get another look. They are wild animals afterall, and one can never predict their behavior.

We decided to move on to other potential reoprts of whale activity and we were lucky enough to find 2 Humpback whales. These Humpback whales were in different locations, but we spent quality time with both of them. One of our humpbacks, was our friend from the morning, Siphon's 09 calf. This whale was feeding deep underneath the water and when it would surface, you could see all the salt water filtering out of its mouth!

We aslo spent time with one of our adopt-a-whales, Satula. Satula was first sighted in 1988 and was creating bubble clouds underneath the water to help corral an afternoon meal. It was great to spend time with him again and seeing one of our adopt-a-whale's is always a special treat! Thank you to all our passengers who came along for the ride.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

June 28 Prince of Whales

Although today wasn't as active as the past couple days, we did see a lot of whales. The whales however were not cooperating with our needs. Our first stop was with a large fin whale and two minke whales. Soon the minke whales were long gone and the fin whale was on a mission.

Fin Whale

Next we saw a few blows and a fluke from a humpback whale less than a half mile from our boat but after stopping and waiting for a LONG time, this whale was never seen again- it gave us the slip!

Finally after a bit of searching we found another, much more cooperative, humpback whale. This one was identified as the 2009 calf of Siphon and has yet to be named. This 2-year-old was amazing, and even when our PA system went on the fritz for a few minutes, I didn't even need it since the whale was so close and not moving far at all. Several times it popped up right along side us!
Humpback whale close to the boat!

The 2009 calf of the humpback whale named Siphon

Certainly it was a nice day to be on the water. Thanks to all of our interested passengers for your insightful questions today!

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Atlantic Queen June 28th

We had another great day on the water today. We had many passengers with great questions and all of us from the Blue Ocean Society enjoyed answering all of there interesting questions. WE spent the day with another male Humpback named "Satula" who was first seen in 1988. Satula averaged about 4-5 minute dives and released alot of bubbles to trap the fish below us. We had really nice looks at him. Unfortunately Satula has some entanglement issues on his dorsal fin, despite the past injury he looked very healthy! Lastly I would like to congratulate Mary Jane Whitehouse who was on board with her family, she won our raffle today, a Satula adoption! She was thrilled and very happy! Be sure to check our web site for more updates on our Gulf of Maine whales.

Monday, June 27, 2011

June 27 Granite State

Another beautiful morning today with clear skies and glass-like conditions on the surface of the ocean. Our morning sightings started out with a couple of Minke whales inshore before heading out towards Jeffreys Ledge. We then came upon a Humpback whale named Flicker. Before long we even ended up getting a few looks at a Fin whale that had moved into the area as we spent some time watching Flicker.

With such great visibility we decided to go search a few other areas for potential whale activity nearby. Our searching ending up taking us to another Humpback whale, an adult female named Nile. This whale has been seen over the past few days and we continue to enjoy the fact that she has been sticking around the productive grounds of Jeffreys Ledge. Our show stopping sighting however, turned out to be the large pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins we spotted just before heading for home this morning. This group encompassed at least 100 individuals, including some recently born calves, and with such beautiful ocean conditions everyone on board could watch the ease and gracefulness of these whales as they swam all around the boat! We only see dolphins about 20% of the time we go out whale watching and since we start mid-May and continue whale watching in to October, that's a lot of trips and thus it is always quite the special treat when we get the opportunity to encounter these animals! Our trip wasn't over yet as we ended up getting some fantastic looks at a Fin whale cruising through the area as we continued back towards Rye Harbor!

The white lower jaw of a Fin whale (above) and its dorsal fin (below)

Our afternoon trip held its own surprises as our first sighting of the trip was a very large Basking Shark. This fish didn't stay at the surface for long but many of our passengers got a really close look at the second largest shark in the world! Our next sighting was the second largest animal in the world but it wasn't just one, or two, or three... we had 4 large Fin whales moving through the water together!

Two out of the four Fin whales going on a deeper dive!

Fin whales require so much food every single day that typically when we get the chance to see these animals, they are normally swimming alone as they are constantly searching for their daily requirements of 1 million calories of food! The fact that we had four of these animals all associated with each other was quite the fantastic spectacle!

The ever subtle but distinctive markings of a few of our Fin whales. While the dorsal fins all look very similar in shape and size each photo also showcases a lighter colored scar, or marking, on these whale's backs!

As we were about to leave this group and check out another whale we were seeing out in the distance, a fifth Fin whale was making its way into the area. That made 5 very large Fin whales in one small area; wow!

The other animal out in the distance was a different species, a Humpback whale, and one of the same individuals we had sighted in the morning, it was Flicker again. Since Flicker wasn't going anywhere in particular we got some very nice looks at this animal before deciding to do a bit more searching with another afternoon of great ocean conditions. Our travels took us to two more whales, another Fin whale and another Humpback whale.

Our sixth different Fin whale for the afternoon!

Our Humpback whale was Striation and has also been spending extended periods of time around Jeffreys Ledge as this animal has been spotted by our friends on the Atlantic Queen and the Prince of Whales over the past couple of weeks.

Thanks to all our passengers who joined us today whether you were from just a few miles inland or from all corners of the country as it was such a wonderful day to spend offshore!

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Atlantic Queen June 27

Finally mother nature allowed me to finally get out on the water. We had the pleasure of Ollie Fralick joining us again this year with his grandparents Dick and Katy who are two of our wonderful volunteers. Ollie went around and talked to our passengers about what they may see on their trip and educated them about baleen, great job Ollie, we hope to see you again soon. Our first humpback of the day was "Sedge" a male who was first seen in 1988. We also came across another humpback, Flicker, a Minke and a shy Finback whale. It felt so good to be out on the water again, thank you to all who joined us today.

June 27 Prince of Whales

Beautiful day for a whale watch/bird watch trip! Lots of animals of all sorts today. On our way to the Ledge, we passed by several minke whales and harbor seals.

Closer to the Ledge we found several fin whales. At one point we had a trio of fin whales traveling together and being escorted by Atlantic white sided dolphins! Beautiful!

Pelagic birds were abundant as well. Great shearwaters were seemingly everywhere, and we had several looks at sooty and manx shearwaters as well.
Striation the humpback whale came by for some food and even surfaced with his mouth FULL of fish and water!

I can't forget about the "tern on a board" either!
On our way home, we came across another humpback whale. This was Sickle's calf from 2009, and has not been named yet.
Just when we thought we were done, a HUGE basking shark appeared and stayed alongside the boat for 8 minutes!
Fabulous day filled with life! Can't wait to get back out there tomorrow!

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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sunday's Atlantic Queen Trip

Nile and Ivory's 2009 Calf (not yet named) Feeding

What an unusual day! One minute we were watching whales feed right next to the boat, the next we were socked-in with fog... and then it was clear again. The weather and sightings underscored the fact that nothing is predictable on the ocean!

We started out with the humpbacks Nile (an old favorite - a whale born in 1987 with a river-like marking on her tail) and Ivory's 2009 calf (thanks to our Research Coordinator Dianna for that ID!), a whale with a nearly all-white tail.


Ivory's 2009 Calf

These two came up in vertical lunges right near the boat, which was amazing to watch!

Humpbacks are part of the group of whales called the rorquals. The origin of the word rorqual is uncertain, but may be from the Norwegian word "furrow" or Old Norse word for "red"

Soon after that, though, the fog rolled in, and we lost the pair.  A couple other boats joined the search, and we saw another humpback in the fog... only to lose it again. Suddenly, the fog lifted, revealing multiple blows in the area.  We headed over to get great looks at a pair of fin whales - second-largest species on Earth!  We headed for home, but caught a quick glimpse at another fin whale in the distance, and then a humpback whale as it dove near the boat.

Fin whale head
Fin Whale
We were happy to have passengers aboard  today from as close as Portsmouth, and as far away as California and Peru... thanks to you all for your enthusiasm and patience as we waited out the fog this afternoon!

Our friends the Granite State  as visibility improved a bit

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