Fog, Fog and More Fog…and Some Whales

Delaware II returned to the NEFSC’s Woods Hole Laboratory dock on Tuesday (May 17), since it did not make good sense to sit at anchor in the fog just off of Nantucket for days. With promising weather in the forecast, we departed Woods Hole on Friday the 20th and steamed through the night to a point northwest of Howell Swell (an undersea feature east of Cape Cod).

Fulmars in the fog (Photo credit: Kate Sparks, Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GDNR)

There we sat all day Saturday in thick fog! We ran up to the flying bridge a few times during the day, hopeful that a new-found mile of visibility would soon open up. It never did. Inevitably it would close right back in to the 50 feet of visibility we were looking at for most of the day. The NEFSC’s twin otter tried to take a look around for us on their way to coastal Maine. They called and reported thick fog everywhere in the Great South Channel (GSC) region…so we sat.

Ship in fog

Photo credit: Kate Sparks, Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GDNR)

The winds picked up just at sunset Saturday and gave us a fairly rough night. On Sunday morning, the skies were overcast but we had good visibility. We
surveyed about 120 miles of track line, zig zagging through Howell Swell
and southward. We encountered three individual right whales, all widely
dispersed. Our sea state started as a Beaufort 4 with about a six-foot swell and improved throughout the day.  Around 1930hrs (7:30 pm EDT) last night, we came upon about five right whales within a mile or two of each other.

This morning (Monday the 23rd) it’s blowing around 17-22kts (knots, or roughly 19-25 miles per hour) and the seas are building. We found a pile of right whales! Beginning where we left off last night, we scouted around a bit. Approximately 30 right whales or so in the area. We have a strong beaufort 4 and building, which prohibits any small boat work.

Sighting whales from the DEII, with some help from "the big eyes" at right. (Photo credit: Kate Sparks, GDNR)

We are about 50nm east of Nauset. We will continue to track south and see what we find until conditions are unworkable, and will head for cover tonight near Chatham. Tomorrow’s forecast is 20-25kts (winds of roughly 23 to 29 miles per hour), with some hope in Wednesday’s forecast of lighter winds.

Lisa Conger
Chief Scientist, DE 11-04
Large Whale Program, NEFSC
Woods Hole Laboratory

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