RIGHT WHALE RESEARCH

A Swell First Cape Breton Survey

Written by Monica Zani

It was an early morning, up at 5AM and out the door 6AM. The snow crab season was about to open in just two days and the Cheticamp waterfront was awake and bustling. We worked quickly to launch the Callisto and not be in the way of the fishermen who were busy rigging their boats for the short but lucrative season.

Crab boats rigged and ready for the start of the snow crab season in Cheticamp Harbor. Photo: Monica Zani

We departed the well-marked channel at the entrance of Cheticamp Harbor and quickly met a rolling ground swell of 3 to 5 ft.  While the swell was manageable for the 26 ft. Callisto, it took its toll on us. Working and observing marine mammals in a ground swell is difficult and tiring, and we were faced with it for the next 10-12 hours. Thankfully the swell did lay down considerably by the afternoon, but it had cost us valuable time and so we adjusted our survey plan accordingly.

Our completed survey effort on our first day. Map by Mysticetus software.

While we didn’t see any right whales we did have a sighting of a pod of pilot whales on our transit home. The next morning we all awoke a bit sore from our previous day on the water- up at 5 AM and out the door at 6 AM. Here we go again!

Pilot whales are seen close to Cape Breton's shore. Photo: Monica Zani
Pilot whales can be individually identified by nicks and cuts on their dorsal fins. Photo: Monica Zani