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.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July 31 Atlantic Queen

Incredible day out at Jeffreys Ledge! A first for many of our passengers, and there were even a few firsts for me as well. We headed out towards Jeffreys Ledge in search of some fin whales that we heard were in the area. After a lot of searching all of a sudden we were surrounded by fin whales! It took a little time before we could identify 7 different fin whales in the immediate area with more spouts in the distance. Beyond being surrounded by fin whales (the second largest species on the planet) we were also treated to seeing a fin whale mother calf pair. This was my very first fin whale calf, and I couldn't have been more excited.

We really got a great show from the fin whale mom and calf. A few times they even crossed the bow of our boat. Another fin whale in the area also got a little curious and came directly underneath us!
While we were waiting for our mom calf pair to resurface we also had a visit from a blue shark. Below you can see it's fins peaking out over the water.

After spending lots of time with our mom and calf pair we decid
ed to press on and continue to explore the ledge. In the distance we saw a tail and knew we had a humpback whale in the area. This humpback was actively feeding just below the surface giving us quite a few looks at its tail.

Finally on the way back into Rye Harbor we saw two minke whales. Overall a really great trip! Thank you to everyone who joined us out at Jeffreys Ledge today! Thanks to Robyn and Chris for making the trip all the way from New Zealand. I was so excited to share this experience with you. Happy 8th birthday to Jenna! Hope to see you all again soon.

July 30 Granite State

Our morning trip started off with a mother and calf Fin whale pair.  While the calf certainly spent time circling around the area, heads kept having to turn as the calf would pop up in all direction around the boat, mom was being a bit more mellow.  Eventually we got the opportunity to watch as mom went on a deeper dive snapping photographs of her enormous body as she dove to document just which pair we were surrounded by.  Looks like this pair has been spending a bit of time on Jeffreys Ledge as we spotted these two animals earlier this week!
Dorsal fin of our Fin whale mom and what we use to identify all Fin whales

A bit further offshore another spout was seen.  Moments later two spouts were seen.  We had come across another pair of whales.  It was yet another pair of Fin whales but this time it was two large animals.  Spending time with two of the second largest living animals on the planet is so incredible as these creatures seem to effortlessly maneuver in synchrony with each other.  It didn't take long to realize that both of these whales were familiar!  Low and behold Ladder, one of our frequently seen Adopt-a-Whale whales, was of course swimming through the ocean with a friend.  Even though we have not yet been able to verify exactly who this second whale is we do know it is an animal we too have been seen out on the Ledge in recent days. 
Ladder's friend
Prior to this sighting, this particular Fin whale had been spotted on its own (very typical for Fin whales) but today there it was with another adult whale.  Both animals kept circling around and we even saw indications of feeding bouts as a couple times both whales surfaced with their lower jaw fully extended.  Both whales were chowing down on some morning food!

Ladder's large girth of a body as it surfaces behind the boat filtering out lots of salt water
Ladder and it's friend swimming in cahoots with each other

More time meant more exploring and off we went as these two large Fin whales continued on with their activities.  After some searching we once again spotted a spout in the distance.  Another Fin whale was near by!  We got a few looks before we needed to head back towards land but were once again able to positively identify this particular Fin whale as well.  #0813 was meandering around the area.  All these familiar Fin whales continue to utilize the nutrient-rich waters on and around Jeffreys Ledge and we sure do enjoy spending time with them! 
Hello again Fin whale #0813

Such is the case when you are out on the open ocean, the more area you cover the greater the chance of seeing whale activity.  Almost every time we start to head back to Rye Harbor our track line takes us through areas we have yet to go through.  If you were to look at each of our trips we are almost always making a large triangle, or circle, heading out towards Jeffreys Ledge in one direction and heading back to land over different parts of the ocean.  We aren't kidding when we say there is always a possibility of coming across more wildlife on our way back in and such was the case this morning.  Our travels took us through an area we were crossed paths with another species of whale on its own travel pattern.  More specifically we found 50 of them.  A pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins were out ahead of us. 
We couldn't stay long but we were able to get some incredible looks as our group of whales moved through the water.  They were heading offshore, and we needed to head inshore, so soon we were off again to the west.  What a very nice surprise to end our morning with!
This dolphin has its mouth open!  If only we knew what this mammal was thinking or learning about us as it swam by...

This afternoon we were off again to see if we could relocate any of the marine life we had seen from our morning adventures.  Our first stop was a lone Fin whale.  At first we were having some difficulty even relocating the animal as it would breath for a couple breaths and just disappear underneath the waterline.  The whale wasn't arching it's back to indicate a deeper dive so we thought perhaps this whale was doing a bit of afternoon sleeping.  Unfortunately that was not at all the case.  We had come across an entangled whale....

This Fin whale, from our vantage point, was towing two yellow buoys ~60ft beyond the animal itself.  While we never saw any line on, or around the animal, it is believed this whale may be weighed down by gear in the depths of the ocean.  We never saw more than the first third, to half, of this whale's body above the water which could be a sign this whale is trailing so much gear, and weight, it is unable to achieve the possibility of behaving like a free-swimming whale.  Apologizes to our passengers as we quickly went into "high alert mode," as we are always ready to if needed, making the necessary phone and radio calls to those that needed to be reached.  Photographs were taken of all aspects of what we were seeing and sent along to folks at Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies Disentanglement network.  These few highly trained people have years of experience dealing with, and disentangling, all whales up and down the East Coast.  While seas conditions and daylight hours limited the chance of having a team come from Cape Cod to assess this whale first-hand they are on alert if anyone ends up spotting this whale once again.  We thank all our passengers for being understanding as our Captain and crew did all that we could do in this very sad reminder of what dangerous, human-related, harm we ultimately created for the whales in the ocean.  We also thank the Disentanglement Team for doing all that you do to help these mammals over the seasons.  If/when any other information becomes available we will of course pass the news on to all of you.

We didn't want to stress out the whale any more than it may have already been stressed out and after taking very detailed documentation (lots of behavioral notes thanks to our awesome Blue Ocean Society intern Dominique!) we eased our way out of the area.  We pressed on and ended up coming into an area where we had spotted two more spouts.  Not only was this a Fin whale pair, it was the same pair we had spent time with just this morning.  Ladder and friend, while having moved from their morning location, were still swimming side-by-side. 

During one surfacing we even saw another friendly reminder that these whales were feeding, or at least recently.  An enormous bright red cloud began forming on the water.
Red patch in the water; whale poop!
Krill was the choice of food.  This red cloud ended up getting bigger as the whale left a few patches of  digested krill as it moved around.  It is a little weird to say you saw whale poop but it really is a very cool sight!

With some great looks at this pair we had a bit more time to search for more whale activity and so we pressed on.  Our trip ended with what we thought was another pair of Fin whales, but actually ended up being THREE as we quickly went from having a whale off our left side to two more off our right side!  What a way to end the day.  Three free-swimming, large and in charge, Fin whales moving through the water with such ease.  As all three whales went on deeper dives, watching as they sank below the waterline, we were able to identify two of the three whales.  Both adult whales (and I am guessing the third is also an adult as it was just as large as the other two) we had in our midst #0506 Blunt and #0354. 
Blunt the Fin whale
Fin whale #0354
Once again seeing one Fin whale is impressive, but this time 3, on top of the other two we had seen earlier, wow.  It was an adventurous day in many different aspects today and we thank all of you for your love of the ocean and all the live in it.

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July 30 Atlantic Queen

Beautiful day out at Jeffreys Ledge. It was a little bit windy off shore and we got to cool off a bit with the occasional wave crashing over the starboard side of the boat. After traveling 25 off shore we began to slow down to explore the area. Because of the wind and white caps on the water it made spotting a little difficult. Luckily in the distance we saw a distinct spout from a fin whale and began to make our way over for a good look.

This fin whale was taking 8 minute dives or longer. Typical dive times for fin whales are anywhere between 4 and 7 minutes although they are capable of holding their breath for much longer. Once this whale surfaced it looked to be sleeping. Whales are conscious breathers and need to keep one half of their brain awake in order to remind them to breath. They are capable of switching between both sides of their brains to rest at the surface. After a few good looks at this fin whale we made our way over to another in the area. The other fin whale was doing a bit of traveling, and so we started to make our way back towards Rye Harbor. On the way in we even had a few sightings of a minke whale. Great day! Congratulations to Amber Pearson for winning the whale adoption raffle! Thank you to everyone who joined us yesterday, we hope to see you soon!

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Monday, July 30, 2012

Prince of Whales July 30

It was a very nice day on the water today.  We started off our day with a couple of minke whales, who had other plan s in mind then spend time with us.  We did get a few good looks before we spotted more spouts in the distance.
As we were waiting for Dingle to come up again a large patch of bait was heading right at us,we were not sure if a big whale was going to come through it as we watched the bait moving all around us,a Blue Fin Tuna jumped out of the water!
Bait fish

Fin whale
In total we had 4 fin whales, and 3 minke whales.  Ladder was among our fin whales today, Ladder was raffled off to today and Nolan from Wheaton,IL was the winner! 

Thank you to all who joined us today!

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Saturday, July 28, 2012

July 28 Prince of Whales

Two great trips today!
Our morning trip welcomed folks from Mass Audubon on our Whales and Seabirds trip. As Dr. Dave pointed out all the seabirds, I talked about the marine mammals and fish. With the vast amount of life in and above the ocean, seldom was there a quiet moment.

We began by seeing a couple of minke whale close to shore. These whales were acting a bit aloof so we continued on, passing by a harbor seal in the process. Soon we spotted a flopping fin- an ocean sunfish!! This was our first sunfish of the year and we got amazing looks at it through the glassy calm water.
As we continued offshore, we got a report from the Granite State of some fin whales in our path. We finally spotted one that was surfacing regularly. We got a few decent looks but I was unsure of who this whale was. It looked very similar to a mother whale we had seen recently but not quite. After many surfacings and great close looks, I was still ignoring my better judgement. I knew this wasn't Mom #9904 but it looked really similar.

Our whale today- still unknown
#9904- the whale I initially thought it could be!
 As we watched the huge fin whale, a blue shark was spotted close by. As the shark turned, we got fantastic views of the bright blue coloration and very pointed fins! This was the first of several blue sharks spotted during our trip home! Also seen as we were watching the fin whale was a small minke whale that scooted by us, displaying it's pointed nose and white flipper patches.

Soon it was time to head for home. As we picked up speed, Dr. Dave saw some splashing in front of us...dolphins!!   The Atlantic white sided dolphins were quite active and gave us quite the show. 

Northern Gannet
Great Shearwaters
We also saw a plethora of pelagic bird species throughout the trip including great, sooty and Cory's shearwaters, Wilson's storm petrels, northern gannets, common terns and ruddy turnstones to name a few!

The afternoon trip started with an early report of dolphins very close to shore so we headed more north than east on our quest. These little toothed whales were also very active, surfing through our wake and leaping off our bow.

Just a bit past the dolphins we spotted a minke whale which quickly turned into 3 minke whales, all in the same area!! Very cool! Minkes can be erratic but these were awesome, frequently coming up close to us!


Minke surfacing!
 Several harbor seals and one gray seal were spotted as well and we even got a quick look at a blue shark!

During the trek home, we swung by the Isles of Shoals- a treat for us as they normally aren't close to our trackline to and from Jeffreys Ledge. Even with the overcast skies, the islands were beautiful.
White Island Light

Harbor porpoise mom and calf!

 Just when we thought we were done watching marine mammals, Captain Billy saw some harbor porpoises! These were quite cooperative and not as shy as they tend to be. It is a rare occasion to photography the elusive porpoise!

With all the fantastic sightings of the day, I think my favorite moment was at the end of the day when I was moving my car in our crowded parking lot. Walking to my car, a young blonde child tucked in the back seat of a NJ-plated car stopped me and said thanks for showing him his first dolphins! It's the little things in life, sometimes quite literally, that keep us all going!

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July 28 Granite State

Leaving Rye Harbor this morning we were socked in.  Fog was everywhere!  We have had some fantastic whale watching trips in the fog so even with the extra challenge of less visibility we headed offshore.  Six miles later the fog broke and the Isles of Shoals were surrounding us.  A few more miles and more fog.  Then poof! The fog cleared and we began to see ocean in every direction for miles around us.  The gray skies were the perfect backdrop for looking for spouts and the backs of whales.  Our first whale we spotted was a Fin whale.  We could not have asked for better ocean conditions.  There wasn't a ripple in the water and we could watch as our whale swam below the waterline before each surface for a breath of air!
Fin whale surfaces with absolutely no affect to the water

Chevron (gray shading pattern) of our Fin whale
Whale's reflection on the surface as it goes on a deeper dive
The longer we spent with this animal the more backs we were seeing out in the distance.  After a few more fantastic looks at this whale, and even a Minke whale surfacing sporadically around, we eased our way over to the other animals.  Both whales were barely creating any disturbance at the water's edge as you would think a whale reaching lengths of over 60ft and weighing over 70 tons might cause more of an effect on the ocean's surface.  The whales surfaced together and moments later we realized why.  One whale was much smaller than the other.  We had come across as mother/calf pair! 
Back and dorsal fin of our adult female Fin whale
A closer inspection of Mom's dorsal fin (and even the calf's) 99% confirms the fact that this is a new pair to Jeffreys Ledge this season.  That makes 3 confirmed mom/calf pairs this year!!!  I say I am 99% confident only because I admit I am not the best Fin whale matcher.  Instead I leave that responsibility up to the Blue Ocean Society's Fin whale Master as she has had lots of years of experience studying the subtle difference of all these second-largest creatures on the planet! 
Mom's dorsal fin as her calf surfaces just beyond her
I will say however that Mom certainly has a distinctive chevron pattern and small sharp edges on its dorsal fin so hopefully I am correct (though this won't be the first, or last time, I may be mistaken). 
Chevron pattern of our adult female
Regardless, this pair was a great sight to see as both mom and her calf were slowing maneuvering the area providing some spectacular looks at an adult female and her "tiny" calf.
Fin whale calf swims in towards the boat
Mom/calf Fin whale pair
Further offshore we also spent time with another Fin whale, #0813, a whale first spotted on Jeffreys Ledge in 2008.  Add in a few more Minke whales and 5 Blue sharks and it was quite the lovely morning.
Fin whale #0813

This afternoon we headed back to where we had been in the morning but got diverted as our friends on the Atlantic Queen informed us of a small pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins.  These whales certainly were on the move.  They were charging through the water, creating plenty of white water, allowing us to easily keep tract of these animals as they moved through the area.

With some nice looks we moved further offshore.  The whales we had seen in the morning had moved as the area was quiet as far as spouts, disturbances, and backs of whales were non-existent.  With more calm water we knew if something was around we would see it.  Eventually we ended up coming into an area with a single Fin whale.  This whale was being so relaxed we only got a chance to see its dorsal fin a few times the entire time we spent with this animal! Luckily this whale had such a distinctive fin we knew in an instant who it was.  #0813 was still swimming around our area!
Fin whale #0813 barely showcasing any of it's body this afternoon

With a bit more time we decided to check out a couple other spots nearby.  We ended up in an area where were had a least 5 more Fin whales around!  All these whales were being a bit confusing as they were circling around the area constantly changing direction so we just stayed put making sure we were not interfering with the movements of the whales.
Fin whale #9709 was in the mix of activity this afternoon
A couple whales surfaced close by, one of them off the stern, and a familiar one at that.  It was Dingle!  Over the past month this whale has been showing itself randomly over the weeks and enjoyed once again seeing this whale today.  A few more looks at all the animals and we were out of time. 

Thanks to all our passengers today who kept an eye out for all kinds of activity as in addition to all the whales we saw today we also got the chance to spot 5 Blue sharks this morning and 11 this afternoon!

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July 28 Atlantic Queen

Calm, cool, and grey day out at Jeffreys Ledge today. Certainly nice to leave the heat back on land, unfortunately the humidity followed us out there. The trip started slow, but eventually we found a minke whale. Not too far in the distance we also found a small pod of Atlantic white sided dolphins! My first pod of the season. They really can be a fun species to see out at the Ledge, although this pod seemed a bit sleepy. Still got some good looks at this group before we decided to press on. Not long after we found ANOTHER pod of Atlantic white sided dolphins! We typically see dolphins on 20% of our trips, and it's almost unheard of to see TWO different pods! Hanging around the dolphins was also a blue shark that we were able to get some quick looks at before it dove deeper.
We then decided to press on further out into the Gulf of Maine in search of some larger cetaceans. We searched for a little while and then came upon another sleepy whale. We found a fin whale that was logging. Logging is a behavior where whales sleep. Because they are conscious breathers they need to keep one half of their brain awake to remind them to breath. So in order to rest they can shut off half of their brain and bob at the surface. The behavior is called logging because they look a lot like a giant log floating on the surface. It was so calm today that we could see the whale just hanging out right below the surface. Really cool!

Congratulations to Peg Connel for adopting Comet today in our raffle. Thank you to everyone who joined us today; we hope to see you soon!

Friday, July 27, 2012

July 27 Atlantic Queen

The rain cleared for the afternoon trip, and we ended up with great sightings of 4 fin whales!  I'm always amazed how these enormous animals - the 2nd-largest species on Earth - can glide so gracefully in the ocean with hardly a splash.

The fin whales were a bit low-profile today, but I did manage to get a couple good photos of the first whale, who looks like it might be our catalog #0922 - so that is a whale that was first cataloged by Blue Ocean Society in 2009.

At the beginning and end of the trip there were also LOTS of harbor seals around, which is always a fun sight!

Thanks to all our passengers - we had some great questions today!  And thanks again to the folks from One More Referral for joining us - we look forward to scheduling another trip!

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