Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Monday July 30

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 whales on Jeffreys Ledge, 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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