Our August field team in the Bay of Fundy has had better weather than the July team. Although we have had our fair share of fog and wind, we’ve luckily only been land bound for two days at a time and thus have covered a large survey area.
We’ve had some spectacular days at sea with glassy calm seas and excellent listening conditions (when the boat’s engine is shut off, you can hear whales breathing miles away. Furthermore, right whales have a distinctive sounding blow, so we can often determine if it is a right whale from the sound of the blow.) We didn’t hear any right whales out in the Basin, but did see many ocean sunfish (Mola mola). In fact, one day we saw a total of 38 of these odd looking fish–including two cases of two molas traveling together, and two that breached clear out of the water–a remarkable feat given their almost complete lack of a tail fin.
We did find two right whales during our surveys. On August 16, toward the end of a long survey day in the Grand Manan Basin, we received a report from colleagues on a whale watch boat that they had seen two right whales about 12 miles north of us near an island group known as the Wolves. We diverted our track to head to the area. As we approached, the fog descended and the wind picked up–there went our chance of locating them by hearing the blows! After surveying the area for about an hour in patchy fog, we headed in the direction the whales had been traveling and eventually found them several miles south of their last known location.
They were two adult males; Catalog #3150 born in 2001 and Catalog #3570 born in 2005. They were traveling very slowly, rolling at the surface, and occasionally lifting their flukes partially out of the water. Both whales were thin with pronounced dips in their backs.
Catalog #3570 just off the coast Campobello Island, New Brunswick (Left). See the bottom left dot in the map above. Catalog #3150 in late afternoon light on August 16 with Grand Manan Island in the background (Right). See the top right dot in the map above.
This sighting was in the Owen Basin, an area where right whale sightings are not particularly common. So the next day when we went out, we assumed these two whales would be long gone. But lo and behold, we found them again just as we were starting watch at 7:30 in the Grand Manan Channel. Their behavior was the same as the day before—very slow travel and quiet, languid fluking. We haven’t seen them since. Where did this duo go next?
We have just a few days left for this leg of our surveys. We will return September 10 for our fourth and final leg of the Bay of Fundy survey season. We still hold out hope that right whales will move into the Bay for this final effort.