Friday, July 11, 2014

Guest Bloggers -- Hannah and Josie Go Whalewatching

A humpback whale sounds near the boat.
It's been a busy week for me -- home from the island for some work and pleasure -- so I thought I might trick someone into writing a blog post for me provide an educational opportunity for some young scientists. Yesterday my young friends Hannah and Josie joined me for a whale watch, and here's what they have to say:

Before the whale watch we ate lunch at the Cape Ann Brewing Pub.

As you can see, we didn't like it very much.
Josie:  Today we went on a whale watch.  I loved it so much.  We saw humpback, minke, and fin whales. My favorite of them all was the humpback.  We saw them fluke, breach, and make bubble traps.

When they fluke, they come up to the surface of the water and whip their tails up in the air.

When they breach, they jump up out of the water and their full body comes out of the water and slaps back down on (and into) the water.

When they make bubble traps, one to seven whales blow bubbles out of their blow holes and make bubbles in a circle around prey which are mostly sandlance, which are a type of fish.  The bubbles confuse and trap the sandlance.  Then the whales swim up from below with an open mouth and eat the fish.

Hannah:  The whale jumped.  In what seemed slow motion, the head, speckled with barnacles, rose out of the water.  Following close behind, its great big front flippers whipped wildly next to it, causing ocean water to spray behind.  The heavy tail lifted and the whale leaned back in a big arc.  It plunged into the depths of the deep blue waves, splashing everything in about a seven foot radius.  The very last tip of the tail disappeared.    Ripples filled the water, the last mark of a whale I'd never see again.

We got a great view of all the action.   The whales were EVERYWHERE!

This whale is showing us his fluke pattern.  Every whale has a different pattern, so it's like a fingerprint.

A bubble net, with whales about to surface in the middle.

Whales feeding in the middle of a bubble net.  The birds are all hoping to get some too!

This whale has a full mouth!
Some notes from the Ocean Lover:  Hannah, Josie and I went whale watching out of Gloucester, Mass, on the Seven Seas Whale Watch.  Whale sightings have been excellent in the past few weeks, and we saw a ton of whales -- the first one just outside of the Gloucester Breakwater.  A very large group of feeding humpbacks (~20) crowded on Tilley's Bank, allowing us to observe bubble net feeding, tail slap feeding, and a single breach just feet from the boat.  Our naturalist was kind enough to spend some time with my young friends, and told us she was able to quickly identify three of the whales we'd been watching; Wyoming (sex unknown), first seen in 1988; Cove (male), first seen in 1982; and Lynx (female with seven known calves to her name), first seen in 1981.  

Not all whale watches are created equal.  If you're interested in whale watching, I recommend going with a company that either partners with a conservation or research organization (Seven Seas partners with Ocean Alliance), or one that is a member of Whale Sense (a program that promotes responsible whale watching). Whale watching can be disruptive to whales if not done carefully,and a recent study by the International Whaling Commission showed whale watch boats represent the greatest threat to whales in terms of ship strikes.  Supporting companies that treat whales respectfully is one way you can do your part for the oceans.


  1. Very cool Janet..Your posts are tres frais!

  2. Thanks penbayman! I have a great time doing it.

  3. Now I have to get out whale ewatching ASAP! Love following your blog and your travels all over Maine and beyond!

  4. Great to hear from you Meadmaker. Now send me some mead!