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Naturalists Notes
Naturalists Notes 6-29-18

June 29, 2018

9:00 AM

Happy Friday Everyone! Today we hopped on board the Cetacea and made our way out on glass seas to the northwest corner of Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.  Our giant marine mammals were a bit elusive for a while, but the visibility this morning was fantastic and it allowed us to spot a blow a little farther north.  We cruised over and spent some time with Gondolier, a humpback whale.  Gondolier kept us on our toes, and kept diving and popping up in all directions.  After we watched Gondolier cruise through the calm waters for awhile, we changed our focus to another humpback in the area.  This humpback turned out to be Nine.  Nine would break through the surface of the water, let out one large, audible breath, and then quickly dive back down, without ever lifting its fluke.  We observed this pattern repeatedly while also getting a quick visit from a pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins and a couple of minke whales.  An absolutely beautiful morning our on the water.

Until the next ocean adventure, Lorna and Maddie

 

10:00 AM

With a storm keeping the boats at the docks yesterday we weren’t quite sure if the whales would have moved on or remained near where we watched them on Wednesday. We hopped aboard the Sanctuary and decided that visiting the northwest corner would be worth a try, and we found five different humpback whales milling about and foraging. Shuffleboard was first to be identified as she blew one bubble cloud after another and provided passengers with fantastic looks at expanded ventral pleats. We also caught a glimpse of Epee before it dove out of sight and then spent some time with Pleats and Cardhu. As we tried to keep track of this pair we realized that Shuffleboard and Epee had joined forces and fed together briefly before going off in two different directions. We rounded out the morning with an incredible look at Hancock feeding right toward the starboard side!

Laura L. and Eman

 

11:00 AM

Greetings Whale Trekkers, Our 11am journeys aboard the Asteria were made amongst Humpback whales of northwest Stellwagen Bank.  The characters of our adoration included Cardhu, Epee, Hancock, Shuffleboard, and Pleats. The first engagement with megafauna was made with Cardhu who accompanied Epee and Pleats in bubblenet feeding between 3-4 minutes.  These titans emerged with pleats extended and maws closed, amidst green coronas that mirrored the halos of Atlantic Mackerel that orbited near.

Hancock and Shuffleboard mirrored these gaseous hunting cycles, although spaced from one another by a mile.  Their bubbles burnt as halos under the brawny sun, and an ocean stained as emerald mosaic permitted homage to the leviathans of the submarine cathedral.  The whispers of blowholes and chants of shearwater compare not to the tales to be proclaimed by our messengers today.

Periscope Down, Rich W D

 

12:00 PM

Today aboard the Aurora we also headed to the northwest corner of Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.  On the way there we sighted a small but spread out pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins!  The calm seas and sunny day made it possible for us to get incredible looks at the dolphins as they swam next to us beneath and at the surface.  There was a very small calf in this group as well, and it stayed very close to mom even as it came up for a breath (see photo!).

We continued out to the bank and found several humpback whales spread out.  We started with Hancock, who was doing some bubble net feeding and did several bouts very close to our boat!  As with the dolphins, the calm seas and great visibility meant we really got to appreciate her full size and length, especially when she dove right off the front of our bow. 

After leaving Hancock we got a few brief looks at Shuffleboard, who was also feeding, sighted a brief minke whale and gray seal making our way over to a pair of humpbacks also in the area.  We stopped to pick up a silver heart-shaped Mylar balloon, the second we had seen for the day.  Balloons can be a big hazard for whales and other wildlife, and we’ve already recovered many in just the past few weeks. 

Our two other humpbacks turned out to be an older female named Cardhu, and a younger whale named Pleats, sadly very recognizable from her large vessel strike scar on her right flank.  Cardhu also seemed to be sporting some light but still fresh wounds from a recent entanglement, seen on the dorsal side of her tail stock, fluke, and trailing edge.  Although we got really great looks at all of our whales today, we sadly also had many reminders of the threats they face on a daily basis.

Until next time, Heidi

 

2:30 PM

With high spirits we exited the harbor and quickly relocated a pod of Atlantic white sided dolphins spotted by a previous trip. We estimated around 75 individuals however there were two who seemed quite curious of the boat and circled back and forth multiple times before zooming away with a synchronized leap off the starboard bow. 

As for the larger whales, they were continuing to feed although dispersed a bit farther apart from each other compared to the morning trip. With the sun shining bright and the water calm, we had some incredible looks at Hancock as she would surface in her carefully calculated bubble nets. NEAq intern Eman noticed another critter about a quarter mile away and we quickly realized we were seeing the fin of a basking shark. We cruised right over and had just unreal looks at this animal as it fed beneath the surface, straining water through its gill rakers (see photo!) to catch plankton. We regained sight of the five different humpbacks around us and were catching a few last looks at Hancock when one of the Pleats/Cardhu pair tail breached in the distance. Today was a high standard to be set for the rest of the summer for sure!

Laura L. and Eman