Saturday, May 14:
We woke to a consistent foghorn blowing from the NOAA Ship Delaware II. At 1100 hrs (11: 00 a.m.) the fog lifted enough and we returned to ‘on effort’ and our visual survey. Once on top of the fly bridge (or flying bridge, an elevated open area above the pilot house ) and sturdy behind “the big eyes” (very large magnifying binoculars mounted in an adjustable pedestal), we continued east/west tracks on the southern most end of the 50-fathom contour (about 300 feet deep) – an area historically known to have North Atlantic right whales. However, history was not repeated on this day, as we did not come across any of our target species.
Despite the limited visibility and dearth of right whales, we were able to complete 4 tracks and recorded quite a few sightings. We saw a large group of Atlantic white-sided dolphins (~ 25 individuals), 2 humpback whales, 2 minke whales, 1 sei whale, 1 basking shark, 1 harbor porpoise, and a partridge in a pear tree… In addition to marine mammals, we also brushed up on our bird identification skills with a puffin sighting claiming the #1 spot for bird of the day.
Sunday, May 15:
We woke with the engines underway and an agenda at hand. We were steaming to Hyannis, MA, where we would perform a crew personnel transfer – swapping out deck crew and scientists Tim Cole and Eric Matzen for Beth Josephson and Kate Sparks.
After a successful transfer, Beth and Kate quickly jumped into rotation as we resumed visual efforts in the late afternoon. We continued to survey as the Delaware II transited back to the study area, cruising up the west side of the shipping lane. Shortly after suiting up in our mustangs (insulated work suit that also can floa), we stumbled upon a pile of humpback whales and with all eyes on the fly bridge – identified at least 23 big-winged New Englanders (otherwise known as 23 humpback whales, who haopoen to have long pectoral fins!)
Monday, May 16:
Excited for the prospect of another day, we woke instead to the return of the foghorn and a sky without a horizon. Currently we stand ‘off effort’ but will spend the rest of the day actively searching for open patches to work. And despite an unfavorable extended forecast, we remain hopeful that the fog will lift, the seas will lie down (meaning they will flatten or calm), aerial survey support will locate heavy concentrations of right whales, and we will productively work from the small boat! In the interim, we hope all those following along at home are doing well. Stay tuned for more stories from the DE II…