After three days in port, a small weather window opened up for our final scheduled survey day in the Gulf of St. Lawrence (GSL), so we made the most of it.  And what a day we had!  We photographed multiple small surface active groups (SAGs) throughout the day and, when possible, collected acoustic and planktonic data.

A small three whale SAG. Photo: Kelsey Howe, NEA/CWI
Sagamore (#1934) photographed swimming towards us. Photo: Hansen Johnson, NEA/CWI
#4340 pokes her head out of the water. Photo: Hansen Johnson, NEA/CWI

In the late morning, we got a call from the NOAA aerial survey plane that a bowhead whale had been spotted!  Since this is a rare species in these parts, we were ecstatic to get a good look at it; for many of the team, this was a new species sighting!  This particular individual (identifiable by distinct left body and peduncle scars) has been seen multiple times since 2012 in the Gulf of Maine and Canadian Maritime region.

This bowhead appears to still be “on walkabout” from its normal range. Photo: Delphine Durette-Morin, NEA/CWI

Our good fortune continued when we spotted our first mom-calf pair of the August trip! Boomerang (Catalog #2503) and calf were seen twice in mid-July by the first GSL cruise, so it is interesting to note that they stuck around for another month.

Boomerang’s calf surfaces next to its mother. Photo: Hansen Johnson, NEA/CWI

It was a long 27-hour “day trip”, but so worth it.  It was also an amazing way to end a very productive summer season in the GSL. Across both the July and August cruises, our teams photographed over 115 individual right whales, which is over a quarter of the population!  We also collected three biopsy samples, three poop samples, dozens of plankton samples, and some amazing acoustic recordings.  Both cruises were incredibly successful and we look forward to doing it all over again next summer.

#3720 arches her back in a “posturing” pose. Photo: Kelsey Howe, NEA/CWI



This work is made possible in part by the generosity of Irving Oil, lead sponsor of the New England Aquarium’s North Atlantic Right Whale Research Program.