5/8: Started tracking back to the west to see if the fog had dissipated. It had! Our luck continued, when we found a mom/calf North Atlantic right whale pair on the eastern side of the Channel. Though the weather was good, we did not launch the boats as we can’t dermally tag nursing mothers and I tentatively identified the pair as 1408 and calf. Both of whom have already been biopsied. About an hour later we found another single right whale. Once we got to the western side of the channel, we found two more single whales, both skim feeding, which is a good sign. Hopefully more whales will move into the channel during the interim between this leg and the next. We deployed a light profiler and WHOI’s (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) CTD cage in the vicinity of the feeding right whales. The light profiler is to help researcher Jeff Fasick, who is studying marine mammal vision, get a better idea of what the light is actually like in the waters that the whales inhabit. The WHOI cage measures both the water itself (with the CTD) and the prey availability (with an optical plankton counter (OPC) and visual plankton recorder (VPR).
5/9: Oh, fog, how we missed you. Actually, the fog was pretty amazing this morning, as it was really low. Essentially just at sea level, so we could survey from the flying bridge. It still hampered our sightings, but as we moved north along the eastern side of the shipping lanes and out of the fog, we found a pair of right whales skim feeding. Again, we deployed the light profiler and CTD cage. Then as the day wound down we found a small pocket of heavy activity – 2 humpbacks kick-feeding, 1 minke whale, 30 white-sided dolphins, and 3 gray seals – all feeding on the same bait patch. 3 finbacks were lunge feeding nearby. It was nice to end this leg of the cruise on such a high note.
There’s only so much you can control on a research cruise, and I am extremely grateful for having such a good-spirited crew (both scientist and shipboard) with me on this one. It’s hard to stay positive when the elements seem to be against you, but they surely did and helped me stay positive, too.
GG13-01 North Atlantic Right Whale Survey and Biology