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 29, 2012

September 28 Granite State

Some of our favorite conditions are when the wind is minimal and the sky is completely cloudy.  The stark contrast between the ocean and the sky typically proves to be ideal conditions for spotting whale spouts out in the distance.  Granted the cloudy skies provided a bit of rain but our passengers had no problem venturing outside each and every time we were in close proximity to the whales.  Hardy crowds and life around Jeffreys Ledge certainly proved to be a winning combination throughout our trip.

The first signs of whale life were some very tall spouts.  We had Fin whales ahead of us and ended up with 5 Fin whales in total: two groups of two and a single whale skirting around the area.  All of these whales were spending a bit of time below the waterline but when they surfaced they certainly were impressive.  Having two pairs of Fin whales in the area was great seeing just how easily these 60+ ton animals can swim through the water together all the while moving alongside another creature equally as large.
Two Fin whales on the move together

Thanks to our Fin whale extraordinaire crew member a quick look at some of these whale's dorsal fins and we knew who was in the area.  #0622 and #0520 were just two of the 5 Fin whales we got the chance to spend time with today.
Fin whale #0622

Each and every Fin whale can certainly be distinct based on the shape of the dorsal fin and sometimes (unfortunately due to human-related interactions) scars along their bodies  

Fin whale #0520

With more time to explore other areas we got some last looks at all the whales and continued on in search of more spouts.  Our friends aboard the Prince of Whales radioed us that they too had some whale activity a few miles from our current location so we headed towards the area.  Not only were there spouts they were whales of a different species.  We ended up spending some time with two Humpback whales.  This pair was a mother and her calf.  Tornado and her calf were once again back on Jeffreys Ledge. 
Tornado and her calf
The last time we sighted this pair was September 12; over two weeks ago.  Makes you wonder where these two whales have been spending their time and what made them decide to once again make their way back to our area... So many mysteries surround these ocean-dwelling mammals and by having the chance to venture offshore in pursuit of these wild animals we continue to gain insight, and enjoy the amazing opportunity, to come across all of our wild whales.

Before heading for home we had a bit more time to also check out reports of yet another whale in the area.  Spoon the Humpback whale has decided to make herself known to us here around Jeffreys Ledge.  Spoon, an adult female, is another one of our large whales we love to see.  She was first spotted in the Gulf of Maine in 1977 making her one of the older whales known to the area.  What a great find to see another familiar whale grace us with it's presence this year.


Stay tuned for more updates as we await for the weather to cooperate so we can enjoy another day out on Jeffreys Ledge in search of whales of all varieties!

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Friday, September 28, 2012

Prince of Whales September 28

It was a bit of a soggy day out on the water,a little wind and a few waves,luckily the whales,porpoise and seals didn't care a bit!  We saw spouts in the distance from some fin whales and that was about it, these whales had other plans in mind.  We did our best to get our hearty passengers looks at these enormous whales but they were down below traveling and searching for food.
Not far from the fin whales we saw more spouts except these spouts came from humpback whales, not just any 2 humpbacks it was a mom calf pair, Tornado and her 2012 calf

Tornado's 2012 calf
Tornado (foreground) and calf
Tornado was spending a good amount of time below feeding and her very friendly and big calf stayed close by us, what a treat.  Tornado was born in 1988 and had her first calf in 1995.  Her 2012 calf makes it her 7th calf. 

We left Tornado and her calf to continue on there journey.  We continued to look around the area and we found an old friend, "Spoon".  Spoon was first seen in 1977 which makes her at least 35 years old.  She was moving very slowly taking a lot of breathes and doing some logging,  At one point she popped up on our port side and was heading away,we were able to see her very wide and flat body, she was huge!
Spoon's wide mid section
 Spoon had her first calf in 1983, her last in 2010 for a total of 9 so far.  Humpbacks usually give birth every 2-3 years, from our data and her size we wonder if she is expecting again, only time will tell. 
Thank you to all who spent a wet day with us, Governor's Academy for returning with us and our of course all of our return passengers.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Prince of Whales September 25

We left the dock with a full boat of energetic 7th graders from Somersworth Middle School today,we headed to the same area we had great luck with yesterday and yes there were a lot of whales still around.
High fluke from a humpback whale
 Our first humpback of our day has not be identified yet,we did see this whale yesterday and we hope we will have an ID soon.

"Kick Off"
We had 9 fin whales all around the area to,one did a "close to boat" coming up right next to us on on our port side, very cool to be this close to the 2nd largest whale in the world!

Very close look at a fin whale's dorsal fin

Open blow holes of a fin whale

Northern Gannet taking flight
As we headed for home we passed by many harbor seals sunning them selves on the exposed rocks, so cute!

There are only a few weeks  left to come and see these gentle giants of the sea, don't miss out make your reservation today!

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Monday, September 24, 2012

Prince of Whales September 24

Have you ever had a day where everything just went perfectly?  For me and our passengers today was one of those days.Our first stop was with a Mola mola, who gave us some nice looks then dipped below the surface.  Not soon after leaving the Mola mola the ocean seemed to come alive with whales and spouts in every direction.
Humpback whale going down
2 humpbacks feeding together
Bubble cloud
These whales were blowing bubble clouds which help scare the fish into a tight ball and they come right through with there mouths full of ocean water and fish!

Humpback "filtering"
Fin whale "spout"
I have never been around so many whales as I did today,we had 8 humpbacks, 3 minke whales, several harbor seals, 1Mola mola and we counted 30 fin whales!  It didn't matter in what direction you looked there were spouts everywhere and we were only 14 miles from Newburyport!

Days like this are incredible and don't happen all the time,as I said to our passengers (who were great) if you were a first time whale watcher you may never see a day like this again!  Thank you to all who joined us,our new friends from 13 different states who joined us today and to all our local friends who joined us today on a whale watch of a life time!

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

September 23 Granite State

Whale life was once again plentiful during our travels today.  Our first whales of the day were some of the second largest in the world... Fin whales!  We got the chance to see 3 Fin whales near the boat as we continued to see tall column-like spouts further out, meaning more Fin whales than we were even getting looks at offshore! 
Fin whale
At one point we even saw some whale defecation from one of these enormous beings so you can imagine just how large one of their "clouds" can be.  The brown color of the cloud was a good indication that at least one of the Fin whales in the area had recently been feeding on lots of fish.

With more time we eased our way out of the area to go investigate more spouts we were seeing.  Ends up we came across a pair of Humpback whales.  It didn't take long for both whales to move off in different directions so we ended up staying with one, Vault, before this whale started moving exactly towards the area we had just left minutes before.  A few more looks and we went in search of the other Humpback whale in the area. 
Even though the second Humpback whale never brought it's tail above the waterline we knew it was Flyball.  This whale has a very hooked-shape dorsal fin and knowing it has been seen the past few days we had a good inkling as to who this particular whale might be.  After a few more surfacings we pressed on and once again it didn't take long to find more whales.

Two spouts off our port side turned into a trio of Humpback whales.  As we spent time watching these mammals move through the water we got some incredible looks as they all swam in synchrony.  We were able to identify these animals as Cinder, Hippocampus, and Alligator in cahoots with each other this afternoon.
Our trio of Humpback whales today
One of these three whales also left some digested food at the surface but this time it was bright red.  One of these Humpback whales had recently been eating krill!  More whales and more whale defecation.


With a bit more time we continued on and once again eased our way towards more whales.  We ended the day with three more Humpback whales sporadically surfacing all around the boat.  We are still working on a match for one whale (a Type 5 tail, almost all black, which can be very tricky to positively identify!) but did identify our other critters swimming around us.  We were once again in the presence of a new visitor to Jeffreys Ledge this year.  Emoticon was busy circling around the area.
Even from a distance Emoticon has such a distinct black and white pattern we still could positively identify this Humpback whale
Emoticon was circling around the area and even from a distance guess what was visible?  Another cloud was forming at the surface.  Lots of whales and lots of digested food from so many of our whales today.

Our final, and other, whale in the area was actually a repeat sighting.  Looks like Flyball and ourselves were on the same course as we got a quick look, and tail, from this whale.
Flyball eventually decided to raise its tail as this Humpback whale went on a deeper dive

We had a day full of wildlife that continues to provide newcomers for the 2012 season as we spent the first full day of Fall out on the water today.  This season certainly has been a great one and we are not done yet.  We'll be eagerly awaiting our next trip out next week to see just what, and who, will be out there for us to see!

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September 23 Prince of Whales

The seas certainly calmed down a bit in the last 24 hours! Today we headed toward the area we saw so many whales yesterday and never even made it there due to so many whales even closer to us! Sometimes we see a whale or two between the mainland and Jeffreys Ledge, but today we had a quite the number of whales just inside of the Ledge! Like yesterday, at times, everywhere you looked you could see blows! Again, humpback and fin whales were all mixed in the same area.

The first humpback we saw was young and was feeding perilously close to a large amount of fishing gear. At one point the whale breached and then continued to feed. We still don't know who this mystery whale is but it has been seen the past 2 days in the area.
Young humpback whale "flying" out of the ocean!

This is the same humpback whale who breached!
Soon after, we found a few fin whales including "Dingle" (#0369), an old favorite. Also, #0622 was found with a friend and at one point, a third fin whale joined this pair!
"Dingle" the fin whale

Fin whale #0622

Fin whale chevron marking

Spout of large fin whale
We also found 3 humpback whales in the area- these were also juveniles including Talus, Kickoff and a yet-to-be identified one.


On our way home, we passed by yet another fin whale- #0611! What a great day! We ended up with 13 fin whales and 4 humpback whales today! Certainly a great day!

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September 22 Atlantic Queen

Wow! Easily one of the best days of the season!  There were whales all around us today - and all in the same spot, very close to shore!  They were all circling and zig-zagging around, making it very hard to keep track of them, but we estimated there were about 20 whales in the area, and we got close looks at at least 6 humpbacks and at least 6 fin whales!

2 Fin whales and a humpback!




2 Humpbacks

Humpback tail

The highlight, in addition to just having so many whales around, was getting to see several breaches!  One humpback breached 6 times, while another breached twice!  We also got to see humpbacks coming up to the surface with their mouths full, and even a fin whale on its side!
Humpback coming to the surface with its mouth full

Not-yet-identified humpback




It was a bit of a swell-y day out there, so thanks to everyone who came aboard with us and hope you enjoyed the trip!

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Saturday, September 22, 2012

September 22 Granite State

Happy Autumnal Equinox everyone!  Even though there was a change in seasons today the whales were out and about in full force regardless of what we humans may determine what time of year it is.  We recorded at least 14 Fin whales and 8 Humpback whales throughout our travels today.  The truly crazy part of the day included the fact that we were seeing more spouts out in the distance than we had time to go investigate.  Wow, there were a lot of whales today.

Most of the animals we were in close proximity of today were constantly circling around the area filtering out lots of salt water while trapping plenty of food inside their mouths thanks to hundreds of baleen plates lining these whales' upper jaws.  Our Fin whales were either charging through the water, perhaps chasing after fish, or constantly surfacing with such force that many of  these whales were actively participating in the feeding frenzy that seemed to be occurring all around us today. 
If you look closely you can even see another Fin whale's spout in the background from this particular Fin whale seen in the foreground for whales were surfacing everywhere today!
Out of the many Fin whales seen today we were able to identify one of the whales out in the field as #9721, a Fin whale first seen on Jeffreys Ledge in 1997! 
Fin whale #9721
With all the whales seen today there is still plenty of matching to do as our Fin whale and Humpback whale photographs are keeping us quite busy on land as we attempt to match up all the whales spotted today.

As our Fin whales continued to constantly change direction around us we also got the chance to witness plenty of Humpback whales utilizing the area as well; consuming plenty of food themselves!  At one point we had three Humpback whales group up together and surface each time with mouths fully extended out filtering out gallons of seawater through their baleen plates!
Three Humpback whale heads at the surface filtering salt water out of all their mouths!
Eventually the trio broke apart as two animals continued surfacing side by side while the third Humpback whale moved off in its own direction. 
Even though this Humpback whale has very unique markings we are still in the process of finding a match in the Humpback Whale Catalog
Another currently unknown Humpback whale we are attempting to match up
From a research aspect it is so interesting to see the brief associations between these animals wondering why they may group up in the first place, and when/why they decide to move off in their own separate directions.  So mysterious and intriguing all at the same time... Once again it was a moment in time to be in the right place at the right time to witness these individual whales join forces for a few minutes before separating just a quickly.  Even after slightly splitting apart they still remained only yards from each other as they continued moving through the water on their own today. 
Two Humpback whales having very distant coloration patterns found on the underside of their tails
Two Humpback whales at the surface while moving around some fishing gear which can be some very threatening dangers to these whales as they move through the ocean chasing after fish
The more time we spent out on the water today the more spouts we continued to see and so eventually eased our way out of the immediate area to go check out some of the other spouts further offshore.  It didn't take long to once again encounter a few more whales.  Two Humpback whales appeared to be moving in towards all the other whale activity.  Thanks to a few quick photographs and some consulting with our friends from the Prince of Whales we were able to determine Hippocampus and Cinder as on the move together.
Hippocampus (above) was seen swimming in tandem with Cinder today
Looks like these whales wanted to get in on all the activity going on only a few miles from them.

Before heading home we also saw a few more Fin whales on the move as well as a couple more Humpback whales.  Zelle spent time circling, and filtering, around and we even passed by Vault on our way back towards Rye Harbor. 
Zelle's very unique black and white pigmentation pattern
Our travels home took us past yet another Humpback whale, Vault!

With so many whales around we wonder just how long the abundance of food will provide enough reason for these whales to stick around for the whales go wherever there is plenty of food for them to feed on.  It will surely be interesting to see what new surprises Jeffreys Ledge will provide for us tomorrow but it will most definitely be intriguing to go find out!

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