Friday, July 10, 2020

July 9-10, 2020

Thursday morning, the fog was pretty thick.  We sailed into the mystic (any Van Morrison fans out there?) with less than a tenth of a mile of visibility. Fog makes our job really tough. We find whales by sight, not by electronics, so having blinders on pretty much negates our chances of finding a whale. However, we are professionals and we know that the fog comes and goes. We started our trip by heading to where we saw whales on our last trip (Tuesday morning). Magically, a whale appeared in a very small clearing. If we have been there 30 seconds before or after, we wouldn’t have seen our old friend Pinball, the humpback whale! Pinball has been hanging around since last weekend, but has also been moving around the Ledge quite a bit!  

Humpback whale spouting, blowholes wide open

Humpback whale, Pinball
As we followed her around, a couple minke whales also popped up, but rarely surfaced for more than one breath at a time. A fin whale then came into the area and gave us great looks before disappearing into the fog.  
Fin whale diving
Harbor seals were plentiful even though we were miles from the nearest haulout. An ocean sunfish was quite cooperative allowing us to show it off to both sides of the boat! Ocean sunfish are the largest species of bony fish, weighing in at over 2000 pounds, but we tend to only get the young ones in our area. This fish was probably around 4 feet or so in diameter!   
Ocean Sunfish
On our way in, we spotted a huge grey seal! Grey seals are much larger (and more aggressive) than the more common harbor seals.
Grey Seal
Thursday afternoon, we started out with some visibility. We could even see the Isles of Shoals from the harbor (about 6 miles away). But as we passed the Shoals, we saw the looming fog bank in the distance. Our visibility was one again reduced to less than two tenths of a mile. We were in touch with another whale watching boat that said they had a nice pocked of visibility just a few miles from our location, so we headed there. We were able to break on through to the other side of the fog bank (any Doors fans out there?)  and soon spotted a couple of minke whales as well as a humpback whale! Pinball was still in the area, although several miles from where we found her in the morning. Pinball made a couple of close approaches to our boat, and at one point even swam underneath our bow! Incredible! 
Pinball diving

Pinball spouting- white flippers visible
A fin whale was seen in the distance but when we went to investigate, it was gone. We spotted another fin whale and minke whale on our trip back home, but these whales were less than cooperative.

Friday morning, we left the dock with the Isles of Shoals in view ahead of us. Yet as we approached them, they disappeared in the fog yet again!  We pressed on, heading to the general area where whales had been seen recently. Looking around the area with only a few tenths of a mile visibility, we saw nothing. But as we were getting ready to leave, our deckhand Matt spotted a blow nearby. We searched and searched and only caught a quick glimpse of a minke whale. At the same time, we saw a humpback whale diving off in the distance. We cruised over to that area and waited for over 10 minutes. The humpback did not reappear, and the fog was closing in again.  Zigzagging in a search pattern, we covered a lot of ocean, but it took a long while before our captain spotted a blow close by.  Pinball, the humpback whale was still in the area!! She dove and that was the last we saw of her. One quick look at her tail slipping beneath the waves, but for many, that is all they hope to see.  
One quick look at Pinball
The fog then cleared and a sharp eyed guest on the bow spotted what was likely a minke whale on our way home, but the minkes have been increasingly evasive and we were unable to relocate it.

Friday afternoon, the fog rolled right back in again.  I felt like we were living in a parallel world to the movie Groundhog Day, where every trip starts off the same. We cut through the Isles of Shoals on our way out to the Ledge, but no one could have known that we were less than a half mile from these islands as the fog was still very thick.  (Well, unless you had a good nose as those islands are home to hundreds if not thousands of nesting birds…) Two other whale watching boats were scouring the area where the whales had been the past few days with no luck, but of course the visibility conditions didn’t help. Who knows, we could have been surrounded by whales but just couldn’t see them. Unlike our recent other trips, the fog never cleared for us this afternoon. We briefly spotted a minke whale on our way home and tried hard to get a couple more looks at it, but Mother Nature had other things in mind.

Tropical Storm Fay is now looming at our doorstep so it looks like we may be taking a day or so off from searching for whales, but hopefully this oceanic disturbance will stir things up and bring us some better weather patterns to allow for us to find the whales again!

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