Right Whale Minefield

Aboard the Gordon Gunter:

Days 9 – 11. The past 48 hours have been slow going. Although we attempted to work in the building winds and sea state of an approaching storm system, conditions became too rough so we ended operations and headed inshore for calmer waters. Our new destination was Cape Cod Bay, by way of the Cape Cod Canal, where we anchored up just of Provincetown, Massachusetts, to wait out the weather. As the sun set that evening, 30 or so right whales could be seen near and far breaching, splashing and flipper displaying.

Canal transit

A trip through the Cape Cod Canal, heading for Cape Cod Bay.  Photo credit: Gina Shield, NEFSC/NOAA

On Thursday, 17 April, we pulled anchor and began a 29-hour steam that will take us out to the Northeast peak of George’s Bank to our eastern most tracklines and into Canadian waters. On our way out of the bay, we were again treated to the sight of many right whales. It was a literal minefield as we encountered no less than 20 whales, some surfacing close to the ship directly in our path. In a world where most things must get out of its way, several whales seemed unaware of the impending approach of the ship and the potential danger. It was easy to see why mariners must use caution around these large slow-moving whales. We were able to photograph at least 5 individuals with the hopes that many will be individually identified. Hopefully the weather will improve in the days to come as again we head to the shelf edge and canyons that we’ve been dying to survey.

Gina Shield
GU14-02 Leg II
Atlantic Marine Assessment Program for Protected Species (AMAPPS)
Cetacean and Turtle Abundance Spring Survey

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