By Brigid McKenna

For our second survey of the 2019 Bay of Fundy season, we woke up and got ready early to leave the dock shortly after 0500 EDT. The weather forecast was promising, so we had plans to cover as much area as possible during daylight. Five of us were on the Nereid this Tuesday: Monica, Kelsey, Johanna, Celia, and myself. We rotated being on watch, driving the boat, recording data, and being on break (as we do) as we first headed east, and then began north-south track lines back west.

Two humpbacks slapping the surface with their pectoral fins.
Two humpbacks slapping the surface with their pectoral fins. Credit: Johanna Anderson, Anderson Cabot Center-NEAQ.
Two humpbacks slapping the surface with their pectoral fins.
Two humpbacks slapping the surface with their pectoral fins. Credit: Johanna Anderson, Anderson Cabot Center-NEAQ.

Sightings conditions were ideal: sea state and swell were low, there was some cloud cover so not too much glare, and spirits were high. At about 1300 EDT, Monica spotted some water disturbance in the distance southeast of Grand Manan, so we headed toward it to check it out. What we found were three humpback whales pec slapping at the surface. One was even doing a double pec slap (with both flippers)! We put the Nereid in neutral while Monica and Johanna photographed the event and got ID shots of their dorsal fins and ventral flukes.

With the help of our colleagues at Brier Island Whale and Seabird Cruises, specifically Shelley, we had identified the individuals as Magpie, Baton, and Pylon. Baton is part of BIWSC’s adoption program, and per the online biography he is a male that has been seen up here since 1985, and has developed a unique kick feeding strategy.

Ventral fluke of Pylon.
Ventral fluke of Pylon. Credit: Monica Zani, Anderson Cabot Center- NEAQ.
Dorsal fin of Baton.
Dorsal fin of Baton. Credit: Johanna Anderson, Anderson Cabot Center- NEAQ.
Ventral fluke of Magpie.
Ventral fluke of Magpie. Credit: Monica Zani, Anderson Cabot Center-NEAQ.

All in all, we were surveying for close to 12 hours and covered nearly 100 nautical miles in the bay. Even though we did not find right whales in the bay, our cruise was still important because negative data is still data and its beneficial to document the absence of individuals as well. Weather has not been great since (lots of rain, fog, and high winds), but we are hoping to get out at least one more day before leaving early July.


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.