RIGHT WHALE RESEARCH

The Long Road To Cape Breton

Written by Monica Zani

In a July 14th blog, Marianna described areas of new territory that our team were going to survey for right whales this summer starting in July. One of these areas was Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, an area that has had very little survey effort in the past. In previous years we have received confirmed right whales sightings from the various whale watch companies operating out of Cape Breton.  The sightings around Cape Breton certainly looked sporadic over the years but once we learned that the majority of whale watches only operate a few miles from shore we were sold on the idea that this area deserves a closer look.

To accomplish this task, mobilizing a small team to a new area took months of planning and preparation. In fact, it all started back in January!  Everything from housing, travel, boat repairs, permits and schedules had to be juggled, re-arranged and juggled again. Sometimes the preparation seems endless and regardless of how early I start, I seem to be making adjustments right up to the last moment. The best feeling is when it all starts to come together and you get on the water (or in this case, the road).

With two days of travel ahead of them, the team is eager to pick up the Callisto from the boatyard and head north.
On our second day of road travel, the team was tired but excited to finally reached Cape Breton.

With only a single day to setup the research vessel Callisto, equipment, and our rental house we worked quickly because the next day’s weather forecast was promising- light winds all day! So after many months of planning and preparation I was suddenly faced with the one question I didn’t have an answer for: “Where are we going tomorrow?” Right- a plan or maybe even some tracklines would be helpful! We faced a big dilemma; do we go offshore or stick to the coast on our first day?  The weather forecast begged us to take advantage of it and head offshore. With all our safety equipment in check (emergency positioning beacon (EPIRB), personal flotation devices, first aid kit, marine flares, fire extinguisher, and life raft) we pulled out our charts and discussed a plan.

Ambitious tracklines were drawn with our standard methodology for small boat based surveys. The islands in the upper left corner are the Magdalen Islands, about 65-70 miles from Cheticamp.