Friday, August 1, 2014

Friday, August 1

We just never know what the ocean will show us each and every day. Today was yet another surprise. We returned to the inshore waters where we have been seeing fin and minke whales lately, passing by some harbor porpoises along the way.  We saw a very nice minke whale, followed by three separate fin whales!! Awesome! The first two fin whales were on a mission but our 3rd one was Dingle, a fin whale that we have been watching since 2003!

Minke whale

Fin whale "Dingle"
As we waited for one of the fin whales to resurface, another whale popped up right next to us! This wasn’t a minke whale, nor was it a fin whale. This was a sei whale!!! (Sei is pronounced “say”.) Where did it come from??  Sei whales are a bit stealthy, only taking a single breath every couple minutes, and they are really fast, so it’s not too surprising that this one snuck up on us.   They can also be a bit tricky to watch since they only spout every couple minutes. But fortunately we have an experienced captain who is familiar with sei whale behavior knows to watch for the tell-tale “footprints” while the whale is below the surface.  We tracked along with this rare visitor for over a half hour, patiently waiting for each breath as we followed its footprints. 
Sei whale
Sei whale's tall, wide fin
 Sei whales are not common to our area, although we do see them from time to time. They usually are found much further offshore, on the edge of the Gulf of Maine and continental shelf.

We said goodbye to the sei whale and continued our search for marine life. Next up on the roster were a few more minke whales followed by a couple more fin whales. The fin whales were identified as #9709 and one that has yet to be assigned an ID # but was first seen in 2012. 
Fin whale #9709's swirly chevron pattern

Fin whale #9709's notched fin

This fin whale was seen in 2012 and will be given a catalog number soon!

This afternoon, the wind was picking up a bit but that didn’t stop us from finding whales. We saw a couple groups of harbor porpoises on our way out and soon spotted a blow only about 6 miles from shore. It has been great to have all these whales so close to shore lately! This fin whale was #9709 again! 9709 was first documented in the area in 1997, and she has been seen with a calf in the past. She was busy feeding but we managed to get some very good looks at her as she darted all around chasing down schools of fish. 
Fin whale spout

Fin whale #9709's fin and entanglement scar/dent close to her tail
As we tried to get one last look at her before continuing on, we began to realize that might not happen. She took off on us and we weren’t able to relocate her for that last look!  Whales will be whales…

So off we went in search of more marine life. We searched and searched. A couple of minke whales popped up, and then we got some quick looks at another fin whale. Another whale watch boat said they had a whale close by but that they had only seen it a few times in 15 minutes. It wasn’t spending much time at the surface. Could this be our sei whale again??  We saw a single spout and then nothing for a few minutes. Then another spout. This certainly was acting like our sei whale. Finally we got a look at the back and fin and knew right away this was indeed the sei whale!  We tracked along with it and then saw just how close it was to us- the whale was in the sunlight, just below the surface so we could see the greenish-brown “shadow” of its body underwater right next to us! It spouted again. 

Sei whale next to the boat!

By this time, another whale watch boat was coming over to see this rare species so we decided to move off, as not to crowd our new guest.

We did a bit more searching before having to make the turn for home, and when we did, we were greeted by really dark skies in our path. Seems that an afternoon thunder storm was approaching! We could see lightning in the distance as the dark clouds rolled in! The wind picked up and the rain came down. Always an adventure on the ocean!

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