Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wednesday, Sept 17

What a perfect day! The seas were calm (finally!), the sun was shining, and the whales were plentiful!

We passed by some harbor porpoises on our way out towards Jeffreys Ledge. Before we knew it, we were seeing spouts of large whales in the distance.   The first pair of humpbacks whales we spotted were Pinball and Blackhole! Pinball is a regular favorite, and Blackhole has only been seen a couple of times this year.  Blackhole greeted us by slowly slapping her huge dark flipper on the surface. We aren’t sure what this behavior means but the pair didn’t seem concerned by our presence at all. It is also interesting to note that Blackhole’s flippers are almost all black on the top side. Most humpback whales in the Atlantic Ocean have all-white flippers. The Pacific humpbacks are knows to have flippers resembling Blackhole’s though. 

Blackhole's dark flipper

Pinball showing her muddy nose- evidence of feeding on the bottom!


 Next we found another pair of humpback whales identified as Quote and Buzzard. Quote is seen in the area sporadically but Buzzard is a pretty new visitor, only being seen here once before in 2012!  We also spotted a minke whale near this pair. 
Buzzard and Quote

 As we kept looking around, we kept seeing more spouts! Today’s calm conditions and clear skies certainly helped us to find whales!  Soon we found another pair of humpback whales, Owl and Jabiru! Owl is another old favorite, being seen here nearly every year, and Jabiru is quickly becoming a regular!   

A fin whale passed by in the distance and suddenly we saw that Quote and Buzzard had joined the pair, at least for a moment. Mystery still surrounds the social behaviors of whales so we aren’t quite sure what happened beneath the waves but soon Owl, Quote and Buzzard took off in one direction, while Jabiru headed off on her own.

We were running a bit short on time but found yet another pair of humpbacks close by. These two were sleeping when we arrived so we cut our engines and just drifted with these two for nearly 20 minutes. It was so calm and peaceful, watching over 2 sleepy humpback whales! Finally these whales woke up and showed us there identities (flukes) and I was over-the-moon excited to see that one was my all-time favorite whale named Spoon! Spoon was the first whale I adopted as a kid and has a reputation of being really big and slow, and we love her for that!  She was first seen in 1977 but we don’t know how old she is since she wasn’t a calf back then. She is likely one of the oldest whales in the Gulf of Maine!
Sleepy Spoon near the boat

Spoon is huge!

Spoon- I love that fluke!
 The whale with Spoon was a male named Chromosome- any ideas how he got his name??
 As we searched around, we saw a hazard to marine life- a balloon! We see lots of trash on the ocean and whenever we can, we pick it up to make the oceans just a little bit cleaner and safer our whales. The balloon picked up by our crew could have been injested by one of our whales, or a turtle, seal, shark, codfish, etc. Marine debris is a huge issue world-wide and we are always happy to do our part and recover some of these items whenever we can.

Another minke whale was spotted in the area and as we headed home we passed more harbor porpoises, a blue shark, a second fin whale and even stopped to get a quick look at a finless minke whale- one that we have been seeing here for the past 4 years!  Such an incredible day! We are always surprised and inspired by each trip’s sightings as we truly never know what we will find each and every day.  And on a personal note, today was my birthday and I can think of no better way to ring in a new decade by spending it on the ocean surrounded by whales, many of which I have been watching for 20 years!

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