Monday, September 14, 2009

40+ right whales (now estimated at 75-100) 40+ nm from St. Andrews...absolutely unforgettable

Hello everyone....well, I am much more rested and back from another great day on the water but I will tell you about today's sightings in another post. I want to tell you all about our special North Atlantic right whale trip we took yesterday!

The trip started off in the fog...we all tried to stay positive as we head out into the open Bay with little more than 1/4 mile of visibility. With some co-ordinates to start our search from Laurie at the Grand Manan Whale and Seabird Research Station we stopped the boat and shut the engines down and started to listen. When whales surface they exhale and you can hear that blow miles away if it is calm enough...and it was FLAT calm yesterday morning. We could hear whales right away but we knew they were still a distance off. We moved a little...listened again...moved some more and listened again. And after almost 20 minuted of listening and adjusting position we found what we were looking for....our first North Atlantic right whale sighting! Everyone was amazed but we really had no idea what we had in store for us....

We spent some time with the right whales around this time there was maybe 5 whales, surfacing, fluking up...we had a mom/calf was great. Then we noticed a whale on her back, flippers up and we got to see our first SAG (surface active group) of the day. These groups typically involve a focal female and many males, it is courtship behaviour and even if mating occurs it is not for conception this time of the year.

The visibility was improving greatly as the morning was passing. We saw another female on her belly and flippers clearly in the air and our passengers were amazed by their 2nd SAG of the morning!

We had a close approach of a whale that was severely scarred...this is Ruffian. Right whales are typically ID'ed by the callosities, the roughened patches of skin on the head of the whale but sometimes unique scarring is really obvious. Ruffian is a male of unknown age who was first documented in 2005. We saw Ruffian earlier this season off the Wolves during the week that we had a great number of right whales in that area but yesterday I got much better look at his scarring. It was enough to bring me to tears...and to be honest I'm in tears as I type this. Jolinne, John and I commented yesterday, we saw so many right whales...and maybe 1 or 2 we couldn't see a scar on them. These whales deserve more from us than this....we need to figure out how to design better fishing gear....we need to help these whales, they deserve our respect.

This was another whale that we saw a few times, this is Boomerang. Boomerang was born in 1995 and is the calf of 1503 and the grandcalf of Baldy! We saw Baldy earlier this season with her 2009 calf off East Quoddy Head Light! Boomerang is a calving female...we didn't see a calf with her yesterday...but three generations of mom's in the same incredible for a critically endangered population.

OK...I'll pull myself together and continue with the sighting from yesterday. As the fog lifted...we can now see for miles, we had some surface behaviour beside the boat, never really turned into a SAG....I had to tell off of the passengers to stop, put their cameras down and look around....there where whales everywhere, tails everywhere....honestly, it seemed like almost every 10 seconds there was a tail coming up. It was AMAZING!!

I have a bunch of photos I just wanted to share with you from the trip.

On our way back....John said we had to go straight home, we were so far out....I never really believe him when we says that because on our way home we encountered 3 humpbacks whales on the Wolves Bank, a mom and calf pair who have now been ID'ed as Colorado and her 2009 calf (top) and Quarternote (middle and bottom, note the unique dorsal)! Quarternote is a whale who we first saw in 2006 and he is now 8 years old!

For more info on the North Atlantic right whale please go to If you want to learn more about the Ruffian or Boomerang...or try to match your own photos please check out the New England Aquarium's North Atlantic right whale catalog.

Thanks so much for checking in today. First I want to say a big THANK YOU to all of our guests that joined us for this very special trip....some drove from Ontario and PEI...others flew from Michigan...just to join us on this trip! Thank You to the Perry Family for the beautiful bouquet of red roses, that was incredibly sweet of you guys!

There is a very important point that I want to mention....on this trip were ~40 nm from St. Andrews....directly in the middle of the old out-going shipping lanes!! THANK YOU CANADA for moving the shipping lanes in the Bay of Fundy!!

This trip was spend the amount of time we did with a critically endangered animal was such a privilege. The world wide population of the North Atlantic right whale is estimated at ~400 individuals. They need our help and they deserve our respect!

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