Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sunday September 16

One thing that can always be counted on in the world of whale watching is that the weather has a mind of its own.  The wind forecast for the day was expected to dramatically decrease as the day progressed.  Instead, it decided to hold strong and so we were all treated to some extra waves throughout the day.  Our hardy passengers were equally as strong as even with a bit more motion of the ocean than we were expecting we certainly had plenty to look at.

Just beyond the Isles of Shoals (only 8 miles from Rye Harbor!) we saw a spout.  Once we made our way into the area everything decided to make itself known.  We ended up having 3 Fin whales and a pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins surface nearby!  We first made our way over to a pair of Fin whales moving through the water. 
Dorsal fin of one of our Fin whale pair

After a couple of surfacings the Fin whales went on a deeper dive and suddenly we had a small group of  ~10 dolphins start to surf in our wake!  Where did these whales come from?  Knowing dolphins can easily swim through an area, if on the move, we decided to stick with the dolphins before making our way back to the larger whales in the area.  As we watched our dolphins swim around we suddenly noticed instead of just milling around the area they quickly started to head in a particular direction.  Moments later we knew why.  Out of the depths of the ocean our pair of Fin whales surprised our passengers as these mammoth beings suddenly surfaced along side the boat.
Our pair of Fin whales at the surface together
The dolphins were swimming in direct correlation with the Fin whales in the area!  It is such a treat to see this type of association as inter species connections is not a usual occurrence.  Having not only one Fin whale, but two, surface alongside each other all the while having the dolphins skirt alongside the pair was an awesome sight.

As quickly as we watched this "bond" form between dolphin and whale it dissipated just as fast for soon the dolphins were heading in one direction and the Fin whale pair were busy heading off in another direction.  We had been in the right place at the right time to see the small dolphins (6-8ft in length) surface next to the massive 60+ ft long Fin whales.  After few more looks at our dolphins as we made our way back to the pair still in the area.

These two Fin whales were definitely chasing down some food for almost every time they surfaced they were providing visual cues to us researchers indicating filtering, and thus feeding, occurring from these whales.  The entire time we were in the area these animals were circling around and staying in synchrony of each other.  As the third Fin whale of the area appeared to passing through we spent a bit more time with our pair before heading further offshore.
Even in a bit of wind the spout from a Fin whale is very visible and impressive

The rest of the trip we were once again in the presence of more Fin whales.  A few animals were being less than ideal to get looks at (spending plenty of time under the water and only taking a few breaths) but seeing so much life was a great sign knowing that Jeffreys Ledge continues to be so active in terms of food for whales!
One of the multiple Fin whale seen throughout the trip
All in all we ended up seeing at least 9 different Fin whales throughout our travels including a quick look at another pair of Fin whales; a mother/calf pair!

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