Thar She Blows!

Four feeding humpbacks. Photo credit: Allison Glass/NOAA.

On Tuesday, May 4th, we surveyed around the area known to have Northern Atlantic right whales on Saturday. It didn’t take long until we spotted a lot of blows on the horizon. When we got a bit closer, we realized they are all humpbacks. A beautiful sight, but not what we’re looking to find. We continued on and by 0830hrs or so we found what we were looking for…lots of Northern Atlantic right whales.

We launched Mark and Nadine from the Delaware II in their 15’ tagging boat, called Boo Radley, around 0900hrs. They had great success putting a suction cup tag on a right whale within the hour. The rest of the science crew stayed aboard the ship to make sure that all of the technical support for the tagging crew was running smoothly.

Fluke of a mother right whale and her calf.  Photo credit: Beth Josephson.

Fluke of a mother right whale next to her calf. Photo credit: Beth Josephson/NOAA.

Just after lunch, the rest of us launched in our 18’ boat, named Mesoplodon but for some reason affectionately called ‘little gray boat’ (is that really shorter than Mesoplodon? Anyway…), and headed off to photograph whales and look for potential biopsy sampling targets. Right off the bat we found a mother/calf pair. It was a pair that was not biopsy sampled in the southeastern calving grounds this winter – we sampled the calf and are off to a rockin’ great start to our cruise!

These Northern Atlantic right whales are mixed in with A LOT of sei whales. They are all feeding on copepods and they are mostly all feeding at the surface. We are in a leviathan’s café for sure. Whales are swimming everywhere with their mouths wide open. Even though the water is rich with zooplankton, the visibility is incredible and every few minutes there is a whale swimming by with mouth agape and that view is spectacular!

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