Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday September 14

Having the chance to spend time with even one whale can be quite the experience.  A moment in time where two mammals from very different "worlds" (solid ground vs. completely submersed in water) catch a glimpse into the lives of each other.  Granted most of the time we humans are watching the whales more than the whales watching us but it can still be a moment like no other.  Throw in not just one whale but a pair to start the trip with, a single circling around, and ultimately coming into an area where whale-life was completely surrounding us was not only completely unexpected but astounding with each second that went by.

The day started with a pair of Humpback whales traveling through the water together.  Nile and Tectonic were in synchrony with their surfacing and dive intervals. 
Nile in the process of heading into the depths of the ocean
Seeing these two adult whales still in our area, and currently swimming around together, was a pleasant way to start the day.
Further offshore we discovered another spout.  It was another Humpback whale.  Instead of constantly moving in a general direction like Nile and Tectonic had been, this particular whale was circling around the area.  While the unique markings on the underside of this Humpback whale tail were quite distinct the pattern did not trigger a bell into the plethora of Humpback whale tails we can sometimes recognize right off the bat.  After some searching we have still yet to make a positive match to a fluke found in the catalog but if/when we do we will be sure to let you all know!
The only Humpback whale of the day that is still in the process of getting matched.  There are definitely some unique black and white markings found on the underside of this tail

We began running a bit short on time in regards to any more offshore exploration and soon started to make headway back towards Rye Harbor.  Unknowing to any of us we were certainly in for a handful of surprises along the way home.

First we saw a spout then another spout.  Suddenly not too far away from us a trio of Humpback whales and at least one Fin whale were near by.  Having not yet gotten the chance to spend time with one of the second largest animals on the planet (the mighty large Fin whale!) we altered course slightly to swing through the area.  Well one Fin whale turned into two side-by-side.  Unfortunately neither one of them were surfacing much and neither one of them ever appeared to go on a much deeper dive.  After attempting to get looks at our Fin whale pair we had yet to relocate the other group in the area but instead saw splashing just up ahead.  A group of 75 Atlantic white-sided dolphins were close to us.  Since they were at least "towards" home we figured okay a quick look at some agile dolphins and we would get back underway. 
An Atlantic white-sided dolphin

Soon everything surfaced all at the same time.  The trio of Humpback whales were now close to the dolphins, the pair of Fin whales were moving in the same direction, and even now a third lone Fin whale was spotted all the while sticking close to the toothed-whales being seen in every which direction.  As one of our passengers put it "we hit the whale jackpot."  Yes we had.  Even through all the chaos of whales surfacing in every direction we were able to identify the Humpback whales as Cinder, Geometry, and Komodo.  Two new additions (Cinder and Komodo) for the season for individual whales to spend time on Jeffreys Ledge! 
Geometry and Komodo following in suit if Cinder (which had already dove down under the water at this point)

The Fin whales continued to be a bit elusive, just barely bringing any part of their bodies above the waterline, so we stuck with the dolphins before we really needed to continue towards home. 
Atlantic white-sided dolphin cruising past the boat!

We were on the move once again but before long we knew we were about to get diverted again.  More splashing was being seen out ahead of us.  Initially we thought great another pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins.  However, the longer we watched the splashing the more we knew those weren't more of the same species we had already taken looks at.  The dorsal fin surely were consistently breaking the surface, larger dorsal fins, large bodies.... a pod of Pilot whales were just ahead of us!!! 
Pilot whales can be very easily distinguished from the other toothed-whales we occasionally encounter.  Dark color and big dorsal fins are a great indication of this species!

As if we weren't already running later than planned no way could we pass up the chance of seeing a type of whale that we have gone entire seasons without seeing!  This group of about 15 was just meandering along, constantly circling around, and surfacing just alongside the boat a few times. 
Incoming Pilot whale!

These whales are HUGE in comparison to the white-sided dolphins we had just spent time with.  Pilot whales can easily be twice the size of a full grown white-sided dolphins and having some of these whales swim just in front and just to the side of us was awesome.
Pilot whales surfacing so close to the boat
A young Pilot whale catches a glimpse of us watching it!

The unexpectedness of wildlife today was surely in the spotlight and we will continue to expect more of the unknown when we once again venture offshore for another trip to Jeffreys Ledge tomorrow!

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