Humpbacks in the Bay of Fundy

On Tuesday, the team headed into the Bay of Fundy to look for right whales, but despite covering a lot of ground we didn’t see any. We did, however, find large swells that made me question the effectiveness of my anti-nausea medication. The feeling of your stomach dropping for four hours straight may help explain why I’m not going to relive it by providing a better description of the seas that morning :/

It may also explain why the shift to glassy, flat seas in the afternoon felt so bizarre. This welcomed change was due to the winning combination of tidal action, time, and Amy’s genius plan which brought us East to deeper waters.

Bill and Marilyn standing watch in a beautiful sea state. Photo: Marianna Hagbloom

Somewhere between hanging onto our breakfasts (and the bowsprit) and gawking at the liquid mirror we were gliding over, we found lots of dolphins, porpoise, and whales! Our whale count for the day was two minke whales, seven fins, and nine humpbacks. Yan and I had the good fortune of being on watch when we came across a pod of at least 50 white-sided dolphins, and I may have squealed more than I intended when a small group with a curious calf circled below our feet. We were happy to have animals to work and photographed many of the humpbacks, making sure to capture the ventral fluke patterns to help other researchers identify the individuals.

Ventral flukes of two humpbacks that we photographed on July 19. With a quick glance they may look the same, but just like right whales there are actually many differences which help researchers identify the individuals. Photos: Amy Knowlton, Marianna Hagbloom
One of the humpbacks was blowing bubbles and explosively lunging to the surface as it closed its mouth, evidence of feeding! Photo: Yan Guilbault
A pair of humpbacks slowly swimming together. Photo: Marianna Hagbloom

Our team and local whale watch groups are keeping an eye out for one humpback in particular: Foggy. Foggy was found severely entangled on May 18 and was partially disentangled after nine hours of difficult work by the Center for Coastal Studies Marine Animal Entanglement Response Team. There have been a few sightings of her since then in the Bay of Fundy by Brier Island Whale & Seabird Cruises, and unfortunately it appears that her condition is worsening. The Campobello Island Whale Rescue Team are on high alert and continuous standby, and everyone is hoping that the right conditions align for further assessment and intervention.

The Center for Coastal Studies works to cut the ropes and fishing gear cinched around Foggy's body and flippers. Photo: Center for Coastal Studies, taken under NOAA permit #18786.

We’ve been on land for the past few days due to strong winds and fog, but as always, we’re prepared for that 5 AM wake-up call which signals the start of a survey day.