Hooray for Right Whales!!!

When we saw the telling V-shaped blow followed by those perfectly shaped flukes on July 25, the excitement onboard was obvious. One right whale sighting was quickly followed by a second, and a third- in all, we found an aggregation of six individuals!

Catalog #1227, "Sliver," seen on July 25. Photo: Marilyn Marx

Sliver is a right whale first spotted in 1981! He was particularly memorable because he approached the boat and exhibited gunshotting behavior.

Click on the image to watch!

The whales seemed to be doing deep dives and possibly feeding, so we did a plankton tow to see what was in the water. Back in the office, we compared this plankton tow with the one we took on our first day out and found a noticeable difference. The Center for Coastal Studies kindly analyzed our samples and found a species of copepod (Centropages typicus) was much more abundant in the second sample. This is a promising sign that right whales are starting to find food here, and could stick around especially if Calanis finmarchicus also becomes plentiful.

comparing two plankton samples
Copepod were much more abundant in the second sample.

As if the day couldn’t get any better, we also collected a right whale poop sample! We found this purely by following our noses- you can’t miss the smell of it (and when you do miss it, you circle back around until you smell it again and can get a visual on it)! This valuable sample will be added to our large collection and later analyzed for hormone content.

Click on the image to watch!

We’ve had a stretch of nice weather and multiple survey days in a row, so we hope you don’t mind the delay in posts! The great news is that we keep finding right whales, so check back soon to find out who we’re seeing and what our current tally is!