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, July 31, 2011

July 31 Prince of Whales

Beautiful fin whales today! We had excellent conditions for watching these huge marine mammals. We found a total of 4 fin whales on the Ledge today and spent most of our time with 2 of them.

This whale surfaced near us and we could see the whale rising from the depths even before it broke the surface to breathe!

Fin whale spout

Fin whales have always been my favorite whale for many reasons but mostly because of their grace and beauty, and the fact that we don't know a whole lot about them.
I mean, really, look at how pretty that swirly chevron pattern is:

And here is another look at that chevron- beautiful!:

One of our fin whales was one that we have seen several times this summer but is a new visitor and will be given a name/ID number this fall
Congrats to our lucky raffle winner today!

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July 31 Granite State

Tomorrow is August already?? Where does the time go? While time continues to fly by we continue to enjoy the whales that have been on and around Jeffreys Ledge recently. Our morning trip started with 2 Fin whales scooting about the area. They appeared to be heading in a direction we weren't planning on going so we got a couple looks at them before parting ways and continuing further offshore to areas we have been having some luck with finding whales. We spent most of the morning watching more Fin whales as a few of them surfaced for some breaths of air just alongside the boat.

Nice looks as this whale showcases its white lower jaw and swirly chevron pattern

The whales were a bit spread out but that gave us a nice opportunity to watch these animals, get some identification photos, and maneuver to other individuals to determine which whales exactly were focusing their morning efforts in searching for food in the area. A few of the animals have yet to be given identification numbers but we are continuing to see some of the same Fin whales over the course of the season thus far. In the research aspect of all that we do out on the open ocean, these sightings are very exciting for us!

One of our Fin whale we are finding still to be on Jeffreys Ledge over the past few weeks!

We also had a few surprises during our time spent in an area with our last Fin whales of the morning. Close by an Ocean sunfish was meandering through the water and so we ventured on over to get a look at this odd looking fish. Just as we were turning for home we also came upon 2 other Ocean sunfish that appeared to be swimming in unison with each other. Their spacing and swim pattern allowed us to have one of these fish on either side of the boat. Nothing like being sandwiched between two weirdly-shaped creatures of the deep!

One our of Ocean sunfish enjoying the sun as much as all of us on board!

Our afternoon travels took us to an area where we started with one very distinct individual. It was Fin whale #0723. As soon as this whale went on a deeper dive we knew EXACTLY who this whale was. The super unique/distinct/large marking on the left side of this whale is an animal who was first sighted on Jeffreys Ledge in 2007 with this scar pattern looking exactly the same.

The left and right sides of Fin whale #0723

While this series of scars along this whale's body easily helps us to identify this particular Fin whale from other Fin whales, it is an unfortunate reminder that so many of the scars we use to help tell these animal apart from each other are a result of the human impacts we pose on all whales in general. Entanglements in fishing gear and scars from boat propellers, sailboat keels, and other scrapes from boat bottoms are the major threats all whales currently face today. A very sad realization that nowadays the only threats these wild creatures have are ourselves. This is why when all our affiliated Blue Ocean Society whale watching vessels go out to see such amazing wildlife that our captains do an incredible job respecting the space and movements of all the whales we encounter so we can enjoy these species for many years to come.

Check out some of the whales sighted today and all the different scars located on these animals:

Above and below both of these Fin whales have different scar patterns found just beyond their dorsal fins

This whale has a few small markings at the top of its body, potentially from a sheering of a boat propeller

The day continued with a few more Fin whales around, all of which were different from the Fin whales we had seen in the morning! So amazing to think just how many Fin whales were utilizing the productivity of Jeffreys Ledge today with at least 10 different Fin whales sighted during both of our trips!

Fin whale #0828 seen this afternoon

One of the whales we spent some time with actually "left" us a large surprise on the surface of the water... red whale poop! This whale has recently been chowing down on some krill out here!

Dissipating red cloud of whale poop!

The weather was beautiful to spend time on the ocean today and with our excited and inquisitive passengers we had quite the nice day watching whales.

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You're Invited: Trash Bash and Sunset Cruise

This isn't our regularly-scheduled whale sightings update, but I wanted to let you know about some exciting events we have coming up this week -

  • Marine debris research and cleanup is one of our major programs, and we'll be working this week with the Rozalia Project for a Clean Ocean to identify accumulations of marine debris underwater off the NH coast. You can learn more about this project at our Trash Bash on Thursday, August 4, 5-7 PM at the Kittery Point Yacht Yard. Great for all ages - you can tour the 60-foot sailing vessel American Promise and even seen a trash-finding ROV in action!
  • Tropical Sunset Cruise - our annual Sunset Cruise on the Prince of Whales in Newburyport is coming up on Tuesday, August 9, 7-9:30 PM. This cruise provides much-needed funds that support our research and education programs to help protect marine life.  You can find more information and buy tickets here.
  • We also have our regular monthly beach cleanup at Jenness Beach on Wednesday, August 3 at 6:30 PM. Spend an hour and make an immediate impact on the health of the  marine environment!
That's all for now... back to our regular whale news. We hope to see you soon!

Click here for more details on all these events

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Sunday, July 31 on the Atlantic Queen

More fin whales today!

Surprisingly, our first fin whale sighting was only about 7 miles offshore.  It was great watching this beautiful whale with the historic Isles of Shoals in the background. 

The right side of the whale's head - you can just barely see its white lower jaw
Fin whale's head and back
Our first fin whale of the day - only about 7 miles offshore!
We then headed out to Jeffreys Ledge, where we found several more fin whales. They were behaving really erratically, but we got some good looks at a whale with a distinctive notch in its dorsal fin.

I haven't figured out if this is an individual we've seen before, but if we identify it, I'll let you know. 

Thanks to all who joined us today, and a special congratulations to Ava, for winning our raffle!

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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Saturday, July 30 on the Atlantic Queen

It was a day of fin whales!  We had blue skies and calm seas, and got to see some of the largest creatures on the planet!

We saw a total of 4-6 different fin whales today. There were also lots of Wilson's storm petrels around. Below are a few images from the day.

Fin whale blowholes

The chevron marking on a fin whale's left side

Fin whale dorsal fin

Our most frustrating sighting - a garbage bag full of beer cans, carelessly thrown into the water. There are a couple Wilson's storm-petrels hovering over it.
Thanks to all the passengers who joined us for a gorgeous day on the water!

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July 30 Granite State

It was another unexpected day of sightings today. We had a bit of a swell to deal with all day but with the winds calm offshore the gentle roll had some passengers enjoying themselves and others a little bit "not quite right." Everyone toughed it out as we made our way to Jeffreys Ledge and had quite the day today.

Both our morning and afternoon trips started with a pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins. There were ~30-40 of these whales in our groups and are always a crowd-pleaser when we get the chance to find these fast moving whales. We spent some time with these whales as they effortlessly changed directions, and sides of the boat, giving everyone on board some really nice looks at these toothed whales.
Our morning trip continued to an area where we started with a Fin whale, Fin whale #0627 to be exact. This whale was first sighted by the Blue Ocean Society affiliated whale watching vessels in 2006 and has become quite the "regular" over the past couple weeks on Jeffreys Ledge.

Above: Even on the left-hand side of #0627 the chevron pattern is quite noticeable
Below: The dorsal fin of #0627
Who knows how long this whale will continue to be spotted in our neck of the woods but it has been fun keeping track of how often we are sighting this whale and where it is specifically seen around the Ledge.

Our next sighting was Striation, a Humpback whale, and an animal we have been seeing sporadically over the course of the season. Since this whale wasn't moving too much between diving and surfacing we enjoyed watching this animal close by.

Deeper dive for Striation

Just outside of Striation we were seeing multiple blows from animals and decided since we had a bit more time to search the area we would investigate some of the spouts. Turns out some of the Fin whales we had been seeing out in the distance joined together as we started with a pair, which quickly turned into a trio, of these large animals synchronizing their surface, dive, and travel time.

Fin whale #0828 was one of the whales seen in our trio of Fin whales

Who knows what suddenly made these animals come from different angles of the ocean and meet up together but we seemed to be in the right place at the right time to watch them travel through the water just alongside the boat!

We were just about out of time and saw a spout slightly further away. Since we had gone this far, we wanted to see what was out there, snap a photo to document just what was in the area, and go home. Little did we know what we were about to stumble across. There was a North Atlantic Right whale! As soon as this whale surfaced, the distinctive v-shaped blow created from the angle of this species blowholes stopped us in our tracks...literally. These animal are so highly endangered (there are less than 500 of these animals in their entire population!) that VERY strict regulations of vessels of all sizes are in place when in the general vicinity of such an endangered creature. Even from a distance to be witness to such an unexpected surprise, it was quite a memory hopefully all those on board were able to enjoy. Talk about wildlife at its finest.

Our afternoon trip brought us to a slightly different area to start in after seeing the dolphins mentioned earlier. We eased into an area where we ended up seeing 2 low profile Fin whales, 3 ocean sunfish, and 1 Humpback maneuvering these waters. Sunfish kept popping up on either side of the boat, spouts kept being seen from all directions; we were surrounded by marine life!
Super bizarre looking fish, an Ocean sunfish!

This Ocean sunfish had its eyeball above the surface of the water! Were we watching it, or was this fish watching us? Looks like it may have been a mutual sighting :)

We got some great looks at one of our sunfish before making our way over to Chickadee the Humpback whale. This whale was doing some nice high fluking and giving our passengers some great looks at the unique black and white pigmentation pattern found on Chickadee's tail.

With a little more time to search we made our way further offshore to see if anything else was lurking in the waters of Jeffreys Ledge. Well once again we were about to be surprised. Not one but two highly endangered North Atlantic Right whales were surfacing out in the distance. We were in an area completely different from where we had gotten the amazing opportunity to see one of this species of whales from the morning, but it seemed as Mother Nature had other ideas for us this afternoon. We can go entire seasons without seeing these animals, and especially not during this part of the year, but there we were, stopped short of an area with 2 of such a rare occurrence. Double wow and time to head home.

Turned out our trip wasn't quite over as on our way home we spotted 3 spouts out in the distance. There were 3 Fin whales moving through the water together. Once we made our way to the area and the whales surfaced again, one had broken off from the others and now we had a pair heading in one direction and a single Fin whale heading in another. After snapping a few photographs we quickly realized none of these animals had been any of the whales we had seen at any point during the day. What a unexpected surprise yet again.

At this point, who knows what will or will not happen tomorrow when we go whale watching. All we know is it is going to be another adventure and to expect the unexpected when it comes to wildlife! Many thanks to all of you who adopted whales today: Beth, Michelle, Monica, and Dennis. Pinball, Comet, Owl, and Stripes (and all of us!) thank you for your interest and appreciation of these creatures. Can't wait to find them and pass along the updates!

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July 30 Prince of Whales

We were all about the feeding fin whales today! About 23 miles offshore, we found two fin whales who were happily doing their natural thing- eating!

The first whale had a beautiful chevron pattern- check out these swirls of light and dark!

The dorsal fin is a bit generic without and nicks or notches but the distinct chevron is enough to identify this whale in the future.

Next, nearby, we found another fin whale that had a similarly shaped dorsal fin,
but if you look more closely at it, you will see a difference- this whale has a small "squiggle" in the tip of its fin!
This fin whale has been seen several times this summer but has not been seen here in the past! This fall or winter, this whale will be given an ID number and possibly a name!

Thank you to all of our enthusiastic passengers who learned a lot about fin whales today! And congrats to Gabby, the winner of our whale adoption raffle!

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Friday, July 29, 2011

July 29 Starfish

The fin whales were plentiful again today for this afternoon's Starfish trip. We saw at least 5 fin whales in the area, and got some amazing looks at two of them. One of the whales surprised us and popped up right off of our port side, before swimming directly under the boat! You really get an idea of how huge these animals are when they surface that close to us.

This fin whale had a very distinctive, beautiful chevron which we will hopefully be able to use to identify this particular animal. During this surfacing, we were clearly able to see the white lower jaw of the fin whale and follow its path through the water!

Thanks to all of our passengers for bearing with the windy weather, and happy birthday to Erica!

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July 28 Starfish

Beautiful weather for Thursday's trip on the Starfish - took us a little longer than usual to locate whales, but we ended up finding some great fin whales! We got some good looks at one of these whales, and he soon began taking shorter dives and moving erratically... then we realized we actually had two different fin whales we had been observing! One of them even exhibited some lunge-feeding behavior, so there was definitely some good food in the area for these whales.

Thanks to all of the great passengers!

July 29 Prince of Whales

Lots of fin whales, minke whales, a couple of sharks and tons of cool birds today!

These 2 are of fin whale #9709, seen on the morning trip. Check out the second image of her distinctive scar caused by an entanglement last year.

By the afternoon trip, the cloudy skies were getting to the crew.

The seas were increasing but we were still determined to fin our fin whale friends. We found several, including # 0931!

Happy anniversary to the Brown's today!! And happy birthday to Devin!

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July 29 Granite State

My oh my, what a day. With overcast skies and excited passengers we were all ready to find whales this morning. Our first sighting occurred just beyond the Shoals with a Minke whale. We were able to get some nice looks as this whale wasn't spending all that long under the water. A few looks and off we were towards Jeffreys Ledge and the unknown of what we might find further offshore. The next whale was saw was a bit larger than our Minke whale, make that almost 3 times larger; it was a Fin whale! This animal was Fin whale #0622, a whale spending a lot of time in and around Jeffreys recently, and another opportunity to watch this wild animal maneuver around the area.

Fin whale #0622 heading in towards the boat!

As we pressed on we ended up coming into an area where we started to see a few exhalation out in the distance. We quickly realized the blows were multiplying. Not just one, or two, but multiple whale, at least 5, of multiple species. We didn't know where to begin! Nothing like having whales in all directions and not knowing where to look as you continuously saw spouts above the horizon in each and every direction. Low and behold we ended up with at least 3 other Fin whales and 2 Humpback whales scattered around.

Fin whale #0945

At one point we had a pair of Fin whales surface just off our port side; nice surprise! We slowly made our way to one of the Humpback whales in front of us. We had found Zio.

Zio going on a deep dive

This Humpback whale is 4 years old, born in 2007, and allowed us some nice looks as this whale made its way through the area off our starboard side.

While spending time with Zio out in the distance we kept seeing SPLASH and a few seconds later another SPLASH. There was a Humpback whale leaping out of the water! For the safety of all the whales in the area we first watched this aerial activity from where we were since there were other whales in between us and this second Humpback whale. Once we knew the coast was clear (our other animals were surfacing further away on both sides of the boat) we eased our way towards this active animal. It didn't take long to figure out who was created quite the disturbance at the surface. It was Chickadee!


This animal has provided our passengers quite the show thus far this season as this whale has been seen multiple times actively filtering at the surface, circling around the boat, and even tail breaching over this last month. Today Chickadee once again proved to be the fan favorite with more impressive displays from this wild animal.

Even from further away it was a sight to watch a whale propel itself out of the water

Chickadee breached 18 times while we watched this whale! But that wasn't it. 35 flipper slaps, 23 "belly up" flipper slaps, continuous rolling at the surface, and even 2 clouds of red whale poop were the behaviors Chickadee decided to showcase while we sat there in awe. Many thanks to our intern Jenny who was quite the busy bee today recording EVERY SINGLE behavior this animal was doing (down to the second!) allowing us to be able to give you these statistics on this whale's behaviors. You try swimming in the water and propel yourself clear out of the water over and over again... absolutely incredible. This 5 year old whale continued to breach multiple times, roll over, flipper slap, go on a deeper dive and then repeated the whole sequence again! Not only is it rare to see a whale jump clear out of the water once but to have the same animal do it over, and over, and over again is beyond words!

Below: Chickadee rolling around at the surface raising its flippers high into the air before smacking them back on the ocean

Above: Chickadee "belly up" with both flippers above the waterline
Below: Can you see Chickadee's open eyeball? Look at the bulge just to the right of the flipper. This whale is checking out our open-air environment!
Chickadee seemed to make sure everyone on board got the chance to watch this whale as it swam towards the back of the boat before leaping out of the water once again on the other side. Check out this incredible sequence of this animal rocketing out of the water. Could you even be any more vertical Chickadee???

Today was just another instance in the pure unexpectedness you can except when it comes to wildlife. No one even knows why whales jump out of the water to begin with, let alone for such an extended period of time. While there are a few theories it just goes to show that each and every trip out to Jeffreys Ledge is an adventure all on its own. We've sighted Chickadee many a time this season, doing many different behaviors, and we thank this whale once again for another memorable day for all of us and to all our passengers on board. This whale is quickly becoming "whale of the year" for us on the Granite State. Much appreciated Chickadee, and to all who got the chance to spend time with all the whales we saw today.
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