Saturday, July 28, 2012

Saturday July 28

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.
Dolphins

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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