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, June 30, 2013

June 30 Captain's Lady III

Today was a bit tough for us in terms of finding whales. Not every day is as easy as others. The whales definitely have tails and move around a whole lot!  We headed out on our morning trip in search of whales. We arrived at Jeffreys Ledge to find 4-5 other whale watching boats, but no whales!! Where did they go??

We did a lot of searching and finally our minke-spotting intern, Tyler, informed me that there was a whale nearby! Thanks Tyler!! This minke whale ended up being fantastic- lunging/porpoising at the surface and even popping up close to the boat! What a great surprise!!

Thanks to deckhand Amy for the photos today!!

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June 30 Granite State

Guess who we didn't see today. Pinball or Satula! After nearly an entire month of either Pinball or Satula being seen on the southern end of Jeffreys Ledge these whales reminded us that whales do move. Granted these two mammals have been spending plenty of time in our area whales can, and do(!), move from region to region searching for food. Whether these whales have moved on to other feeding grounds in the Gulf of Maine or were just doing a really, really, REALLY good job at avoiding whale watching boats today (at one point today 5 boats, all at the same time, were in search of these mammals) we can only wait and see. Maybe they will return soon, maybe different whales will move in, maybe we will see both of them in completely different areas of the ledge; the only way to find out is to wait and keep looking. As we searched for these whales, and any others, during both of our trips today we were lucky enough to come across some Minke whales today.  All of the Minke whales we spent time with today were once again charging around. Not quite sure what is going on recently but our time spent with multiple Minke whales over the past week has been consistent with today's sightings. These whales were charging around full-force at the surface. They were creating crazy amounts of white water and lunging through the water almost resembling porpoising (similar to what dolphins can typically be seen doing at the surface) rather than what we typically see from these baleen whales which can be surfacing with minimal wave-action. Regardless of why, it was still fun to watch these whales dart through the water as they constantly changed directions both this morning and afternoon.

On a different note, please also help all marine life by disposing of your trash properly. We saw so many balloons floating out on the water today, both Mylar and latex made, which can be deadly to so many forms of life that call the ocean home. Remember that wind, streams, rivers, etc. can all carry so many things ultimately into the ocean. It doesn't matter where you live please let us all take responsibility and dispose of our human trash especially as graduation season continues in full swing and the 4th of July is right around the corner. Thank you!

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Saturday, June 29, 2013

June 29 Granite State

Today was quite the "exciting" ride. We knew there was a good chance the wind was going to blow it was just a question as to when it was going to start and how long it would be before we started to feel the affects. Turns out it made its appearance before we got to Jeffreys Ledge and brought a whole new element to the afternoon. The wind, tide, and increasing wave height brought smiles and laughs to some and the unfortunate queasiness to others. Luckily even with us feeling the affects of Mother Nature the whales aren't too deterred from such ocean surprises for we got the chance to spend time with Pinball once again today. 

Pinball at the surface
Wind, waves, and weather never seem to affect the daily activities of these watery mammals as Pinball continued to circle around the area, create multiple bubble clouds, and maneuver through the ocean with such ease.

Thanks to all our passengers who "rocked and rolled" with some of the ocean movements today and to Pinball for once again giving us some great looks at this 24-year old female.

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Atlantic Queen June 29

It was a bit of a rough start to today's trip. Even though there was fog on shore, we decided to push through and explore Jeffrey's Ledge. We braved the waves and occasional splash to make it out to bright sunshine. Certainly a nice surprise. After heading down to Jeffrey's Ledge, we came across Pinball. 

Pinball is one of our frequent visitors out at Jeffrey's Ledge. We have been seeing her down towards Thatcher's island over the past two weeks. She was very curious about our boat today, and was circling us and giving passengers some great looks! 

As we were leaving the area we also came across a minke whale. Always a great day to see more than one species. Luckily the ride in was much smoother than the way out. Thank you to everyone who joined us today!

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

June 26 Atlantic Queen

As in other recent trips, we headed down off the tip of Cape Ann, MA again today, where we saw Pinball and Satula - two whales who have been seen regularly in the area recently.  But unlike any of my trips so far, Pinball and Satula were together, rather than apart!  It was exciting to see these two adult humpbacks (Satula is a male, Pinball is a female) together, often swimming side-by-side.

Pinball (left) and Satula (right)
Pinball on her side!
Pinball was especially active today.  She was constantly emitting "trumpet blows" (a blow accompanied by a noise like a trumpet) and "stutter blows" (blows that come out with a stuttering sound).  So I don't know if she was excited or agitated by the presence of Satula (maybe there was some courting going on?), or the presence of us and two other whale watch boats.


In addition to the unusual blows, Pinball did lots of tail slaps, tail slashes and even a couple lobtails and half rolls!  Satula was a little less active, but we did still get some great looks at him. The whole time, I was wishing we could see what the whales were doing under the water, as they seemed to be interacting with each other at the water's surface.

Sadly, we also spotted a lot of litter at sea.  Below is the remains of a Mylar balloon that was carelessly, or accidentally released.  We worry about marine life, such as sea turtles, mistaking balloons like this for prey - one of the preferred prey of leatherback turtles is jellyfish.

The remains of a mylar balloon
The seas were so calm today and we had the added bonus of getting cooled off with a nice strong shower on the way home! We came back to a very foggy harbor after another great day on the water.  Thanks to everyone who joined us, and congratulations to Carol on winning the Owl adoption!

Foggy harbor!

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

June 26, Captain's Lady III

The heat followed us all the way out to Jeffreys Ledge today. Even offshore, with no breeze at all, the temperature was unusually high.  But the seas were glass-calm which is rare for the North Atlantic!

We found a few minke whales on our way out to the Ledge. One was thinking about giving us the slip until it reconsidered and surfaced nearby for several breaths.

A bit further offshore, Captain Chris spotted a blow. This turned out to be our friend Satula, the humpback whale! Satula has been in the area for a couple of weeks now and today was pretty mellow. He would surface for a couple of breaths, lift his tail just barely, and then surface for another couple of breaths before going under on a deeper dive. At one point he surprised us by tail breaching (throwing his back half out of the water)! And soon after, he kicked his tail back when diving down! Fun stuff, Satula!
 Also in the area near Satula was some fishing gear- possibly used by the lobster industry. Satula repeatedly swam right next to these buoys, making me nervous that he may become entangled in the line from the buoy down to the traps/gear on the ocean floor. The vast majority of humpback whales in the Gulf of Maine have scars/signs of prior entanglements, and I must say, those are the lucky ones...the ones that managed to survive. Entanglements in fishing gear is a huge problem for whales even though the government has enacted many rules to attempt to make the gear more "whale-friendly".  We are seeing more and more entangled whales each year on Jeffreys Ledge in spite of all the new rules and regulations that the fishermen have to adhere to. I'm not sure what the solution is, but I know that for me personally, I am very picky about what types of seafood I consume and which fisheries I support.
Satula diving close to fishing gear

On our way back to Newburyport, we swung wide to cover an area where a fin whale had been reported, but unfortunately, we were unable to relocate it. Maybe tomorrow...

Thanks to our wonderful, supportive passengers today for your curiosity and interest!

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tuesday, June25th, Granite State

What a day! The skies were hazy as we left the dock this morning, but the warm temperature changed shortly after leaving the harbor. We started towards a Southern area of Jeffrey's Ledge in search of whales.  A little inshore of Thatcher's Island, we came upon several Minke whales and actually saw 7 different Minke's throughout this morning's trip. The first two that we started with were charging around in all directions after lots of bait located underneath the water's surface.

As we continued on our way further south, we spotted a blow from a larger whale and decided to check it out.  It tured out to be our old friend Satula.  This humpback whale has been spending quite a bit of time on Southern Jeffrey's Ledge and today was no different.  He continued to feed, using bubble clouds and also gave us quite the indication that he was a healthy feeding whale where we were witness to several instances of him defecating at the water's surface.  Whale poop always gets people laughing, but it is a good indication to us scientists that things are processing properly.

Notice the brown cloud right in front of Satula's tail...whale poop!
After spending time with Satula, we noticed a different whale about 2 miles away and decided to venture that way to see who may be there. Well, it tunrned out to be Pinball, a female humpback whale first sighted in 1989. She was busy feeding as well this morning and gave everyone great looks.

On our way home we spotted a few harbor porpoise, and it was a great way to end our morning trip.

We were looking forward to leaving the dock in the afternoon to beat the summer heat, and decided to start our afternoon in a place where we had had Minke whales on the way home and we were able to start our trip with one very cooperative Minke whale. This whale was circling around after bait and was taking very short dives. Right before leaving this whale, it exhaled close by and gave us all an indication of what it feeding on. That was one stinky Minke whale!

We continued on towards Southern Jeffrey's once again and were able to find both Pinball and Satula once again. This time we found Pinball first and I think at one point she decided to watch us instead. With this close approach you can see her "big wings" underneath the surface.

Pinball's showing her "big wings"

We found Satula about 2 miles away and I think this whale was full from all the food he consumed in the monring because he kept moving his body in a snaking motion in what seemed to be a way to help him digest his food. He also rolled to one side at one point and slapped his flipper along the surface as well.

Since we had just a little bit more time to spend in the area, we were going to try and find Pinball one more time when we found an adult Fin whale instead. This whale turned out to be #9709, an adult female. She was on quite the mission, charging through the water and travelling very quickly through the area.
#9709's chevron pattern

As we tunred for home, we were able to see Pinball one last time and it was such a nice way to end our day.
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June 25 Atlantic Queen

An incredible trip today! We were all so grateful to leave the hot, humid temperatures on land for some cooler weather. Once we were under way we headed down towards the southern end of Jeffreys Ledge. The ledge extends from Cape Ann in Massachusetts up to Cape Elizabeth in Maine. Our first sighting was of Pinball. She has been hanging out in the area for quite some time now. And what a sighting it was! She was so curious and approaching the boat time and time again. We even got to see whale poop! Whale poop is very exciting for scientists because it gives us a way to study these endangered animals without harming them in any way. From the color of her poop we could tell that she had been eating herring and mackerel.  Below are some of the best photos from watching her.

After a while we decided to explore the area a little more, but not before coming across a few minke whales.

In the distance we saw a spout for another humpback whale. It was Satula, a male humpback whale. Pinball and Satula have been seen together for 3-4 four days since 2001 (when Satula still had a dorsal fin).

Satula was very active and gave the passengers quite the show! We saw tail slashes, flipper slapping, and some behavior I have never seen before. We even saw some whale poop from Satula (photo above).

Truly a whale watch for the books! Thank you to everyone who joined us. We hope to see you again soon!

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Monday, June 24, 2013

June 24 Atlantic Queen

Whew! What a hot day! It was slightly cooler on the water, and definitely nicer there than on land today.

Satula with Thacher Island in the background
As we have been for the past couple weeks, we headed south towards Cape Ann.  We found Satula, a male humback first seen in 1988.  Satula was cruising around, and at one point surfaced right off the bow, giving us a great look at his blowholes and enormous back. We also saw a bubble cloud and (no offense, Satula!) smelled his very stinky breath - evidence of recent feeding! 

Satula flips his tail in the air

Satula's distinctive fluke pattern

Bubble cloud
During this time, we also saw a couple minke whales at a distance.

When we headed home, we kept an eye out for other minke whales, who we had heard might be in the area. We found one - and got one of the best minke whale looks ever! As we drifted in neutral, the whale surfaced, turned right toward us and dove under the bow, giving us great looks at its whole body and distinctive "minke mittens."
Incoming minke whale!

Minke mittens!
What a great way to end the trip!  Thanks to all who "beat the heat" with us today!

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