“A” for effort

5/27: The day started out with such potential. A clear horizon and winds between a beaufort 3 and 4. Alas, conditions deteriorated quickly, with the winds picking up to a beaufort 6 for the majority of the day. We ran some fine scale survey lines through an area in the southwestern GSC (Great South Channel) where many of the more recent sightings of right whales were made. The aerial survey team searched a dedicated pattern over the same area. When that didn’t turn anything up, they flew to the northeast and flew another focused survey box. Late in the day, the plane found 1 right whale on Franklin Basin and we found 1 juvenile subsurface feeding just east of the shipping lanes.

5/28: Today was forecast to be THE best day of the cruise. And it was. Weatherwise, that is. Again, the mighty NOAA twin otter helped us in our search. We began our day on the northern edge of Georges Bank, just west of where it intersects the EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone). We surveyed west, along the edge, between the 50 and 100 fathom lines. The plane surveyed to the east. Neither of us turned up any right whales, though we had nice sightings of pilot whales, harbor porpoise, white-sided dolphins and sei whales. When the plane headed into refuel, we finished surveying Franklin Basin and started surveying north towards Howell Swell. The plane came back out, surveyed the Howell Swell area with no luck, so we are now heading back to the GSC where there have at least been a smattering of sightings this season.

NOAa Ship Gordon Gunter

The observer crew is visible on the flying bridge of the NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter, photographed 5/28 from the NOAA Twin otter right whale aerial survey plane by Jennifer Gatzke, NEFSC/NOAA.

Long story short – If the whales were in these areas, we would’ve found them with the fabulous conditions we had. A giant “A” for effort, especially for the aerial survey team (Jen, Christin, Karen and our pilots, Francisco & Matt) for putting in a grueling two-flight day.

Allison Henry
Chief  Scientist
GG13-01 North Atlantic right whale survey and biology

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