On May 5 we steamed back to the area where we had whales the day before. At 0600, winds were a consistent 20kts and a bit too choppy to launch small boats. A couple of us were up on watch to put us in the thick of whales, and Mark (WHOI) fished for copepods. With one cast of the plankton net, they had enough copepods to keep them busy sorting for hours. Mark and Nadine are looking at the different phases of copepod maturity and trying to discern what may trigger them from one phase to another…which means sorting them while alive, photographing each one, and preserving each tiny copepod individually! They have three microscopes and quite the assembly line procedure.
Around midday, the seas calmed enough to launch our gray boat. We had a spectacular day on the water, photographing over 25 right whales and biopsy sampling two animals that had never been sampled. For every right whale that you try to drive the boat towards, there were two or three sei whales that you had to get around. It’s like getting through one of those crazy Boston intersections with no traffic light…big whales coming from every direction…with mouths big enough to walk into all agape…truly spectacular!
Mark and Nadine launched in Boo a bit later. They were successful in getting a suction-cup tag on a right whale within the hour and it stayed on for almost three hours! They were able to track their tagged whale using a high frequency sound coming from the tag (that the whale can’t hear) underwater. It’s a good thing, because you would never be able to keep up with one individual visually.
The ship’s crew has been most accommodating and the chief boatswain is staying on watch a bit later in the day so we can make good use of workable weather and daylight. Both small boats and crew were back aboard around 1900hrs, and Rockwell had saved us a spectacular feast.