Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sunday October 7

Today was a quintessential fall whale watch.  Yes it was chilly, but the crisp clean air allowed for great conditions to see for miles as many friends, family, and excited folks were poised and ready for signs of whale life.  Some inshore splashes provided a few quick looks at some Harbor porpoise and even a HUGE school of Bluefin Tuna as we pressed on towards Jeffreys Ledge.

Soon we drastically altered course as we sighted spouts a few miles away.  A pair of Humpback whales were in the area.  Today's groupings of whales (as our friends from the Prince of Whales also pointed out in their blog today) even though we've been seeing many of the same animals over the past several days, the associations continuously keep changing and today was no exception.  First pair: Chromosome and Slingshot.  These whales originally were on the move but eventually slowed down their movements as Chromosome started to nap while Slingshot meandered close by.
Slingshot and Chromosome swimming around together
Slingshot

Next we made our way to another Humpback whale: Patches.  A Minke whale surfaced out in the distance and so we got the chance to catch a quick look at that whale as we awaited for Patches to surface once again.  This whale was just circling around the area so we got some nice looks before we were off once again. 
Patches

We did a bit of searching and with no signs of whale life we needed to think about turning for home when suddenly a whale surfaced just up ahead of us.  A single Humpback whale was passing through the area.  However it didn't take long to realize exactly who this whale was.  The scarred dorsal fin and uniquely-shaped tail was verification that we were crossing paths with Slingshot once again.  But where had Chromosome disappeared to?  Only one whale was taking breaths at the surface.  Slingshot and Chromosome had parted ways at some point and now we were just witness to this single animal in the area.  We were about to spend a bit more time with Slingshot and then head for home when word on the radio informed us that whales were just a few miles away.  We knew with the sun disappearing behind the clouds and the breeze picking up that it was chilly out on the water, but we wanted to make the extra effort to quickly see the reported whales close by and then truly turn for home.

The whales were a trio of Humpback whales.  Tornado, her calf, and Partition were on the move together.  Most of the time we watched Partition and Tornado's calf rest at the surface but the calf became a bit squiggly at one point when this whale decided to roll on its back.  As it did so this whale's flipper lifted high into the air.
Tornado's calf "small" flipper!
Even from a calf a whale's flipper is impressive to see above the waterline.  As effortlessly as the flipper was visible it disappeared just as quickly as the calf continued to roll right-side-up and continue swimming with the two adults.
Tornado, Tornado's calf, and Partition moving through the area
Partition
More often than not we watched Tornado's calf spend its time closer to Partition than Tornado today.  Then again Tornado did not surface as often as Partition so maybe one whale was "whale-sitting" while Mom was searching for food.  Not a fact, just a theory.

On our ride home we had one more unexpected diversion as just off our port side two more Humpback whales surfaced together.  Wait a second, we've seen that dorsal fin!  Chromosome was part of a pair but in such a short time period this whale was now associated with a completely different whale.  Barbell (who had not even been seen at all today!) was now swimming in tandem with Chromosome. 
Hello Barbell.  What direction did you swim in from?

How quickly whale bonds can form and fissile is such short time frames.  We have no idea why these animals group up in the first place and were very much intrigued to witness Chromosome make the rounds to different whales in the area especially ones we didn't even know to be close by to begin with!
Chromosome (above and below) was certainly the "socialite" throughout the day
Wonder how long Chromosome and Barbell remained associated with each other, and if any other whale joined in the fun, or if one of the two found different "friends" to swim near soon after encountering this pair?  So many questions, such a big ocean, and such a small look into the lives of these animals.

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