Thursday, August 14, 2008

Periwinkle massacre

Hi everyone, I made an interesting observation the other day on the Nahant beach and I was wondering what you guys think about it.
There is a beach in Nahant called Dog Beach where you are allowed to take your dogs all year round and let them romp on the beach off the leash. This beach is directly across from revere where a bay has been created because of the man made causeway used to drive on and off of the island. I always assumed the beach was not the cleanest because it was basically given to the dogs. 
Walking on the beach yesterday I found thousands and thousands, if not millions, of empty periwinkle shells. I waded through the shallows and for 20 minutes and searched for a live snail but I only found one! Almost all of the empty shells had one small hole "drilled" into the bottom which I assume is the calling card of whatever is praying on the snails. 
The number of empty shells was astounding.I found it slightly disturbing after getting to know periwinkles so intimately through our class.
Does anyone know what is eating them? Does the high mortality rate have anything do to do with the dirty water?


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Late Post (Trip to Stellwagen Bank)

13th of August 2008
My brother and I took the 13:30 cruise aboard the Voyager III to Stellwagen Bank. The weather conditions were extremely pleasant, approximately 80 degrees Farenheight, and the ocean was very calm. Our journey from the Boston Harbor to Stellwagen Bank took close to an hour thirty minutes. When I learned that the Bank was 25 miles off shore I was not expecting to still see land, but the amazing weather conditions made land visible even from Stellwagen. Once the Voyager arrived at Stellwagen, it wasn’t long before the whales started appearing on the surface of the ocean. I counted up to eight humpbacks at one time. The whales appeared to be feeding because they would engulf enormous amounts of water at a time. This species of whale is known as a ‘baleen’ whale because it doesn’t have teeth but rather hair like teeth that trap small creatures such as sand lance. Hovering just above the whales was usually a large flock of seagulls. I also spotted a finback whales and or possibly a mink whale. The tour guide explained that the whales perform ‘beach rubbing’ by diving down to the bottom of the ocean and rubbing their head or nostrum to scare the small fish. The bumps on the humpback are known as tubicles. They are the only part of the whale that is hair. Some other interesting facts that I managed to gather were that the most valuable species at Stellwagen was the bluefin tuna. Apparently they are worth up to thirty thousand dollars. I might have to invest in a small boat and try my luck! I also noted from the various sign boards around the vessel that the finback was the second biggest whale; its diet consists of capeling, herring, sand lance, and squid. The tour guide referred to the finback as the grey hound of whales. This is because of its speed and ‘slickness’. All in all I must admit that the sheer size of these creatures is absolutely mind blowing. These whales appear to be so peaceful and harmless that one cannot imagine why people would want to harm them. Once we arrived back at the dock, we decide to take a tour of the aquarium. The small penguins were very ‘cute’ but I was interested in seeing the shark. After climbing the spiral staircase to the top I gazed down and saw an array of species. I observed sting-rays, turtles, possibly a barracuda, and the shark.
Hello Everyone,
I wanted to add one more entry to the blog thanking everyone in the class for the experience. I think is was definitely worth it; to enroll in this session, everyone seemed to have the same goals. (Work hard and have fun).

I did not stay to see the fish be filleted as I have seen that many times. It appears that everyone who did stay enjoyed it and had some very creative dishes displayed on the BLOG.

Personally I prefer Legal Seafood as I am not much of a cook.

I wish the best for everyone and hope you enjoyed the class as much as I did.

AKA Old school

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Striped Bass-Part II

My apologies for the delay in posting this, but I've been having trouble getting photos from this particular card to my computer. With that resolved, I can now show you what became of the piece of fillet that I took home. My dad really enjoys fish of all kinds, and this is a recipe that he invented just for this fillet of Striped Bass.

Sea Bass Provençal:

Allow the fillet to come to room temperature. Rub surface with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. In a heavy frying pan sauté a minced garlic clove in a generous amount of butter.

In a small bowl mix a few tblsp flour with Cavender's Greek Seasoning (about 5:1-seasoning contains salt, pepper, garlic, oregano, onion, among others). Sprinkle the mix over the fish, and coat the fillet with the mixture. When coated, add to the frying pan; brown briefly on both sides. After just a few minutes remove to a separate plate.

While the fish is browning, add 1/2 cup half/half, somewhat less white wine, 2 tblsp lemon juice to remainder of the flour/spice mixture; mix thoroughly. Add a bit of shredded or diced Swiss or similar cheese to the mixture; microwave briefly.

Immediately upon removing the fish from the pan, add the warmed mixture, stirring constantly, and removing from heat. Place filet on serving dish, spooning a small amount of sauce creatively on the surface. Garnish with thinly sliced lemon on edge of filet. Reserve the remainder of the sauce in a small separate dish for those desiring additional servings.
The result is spectacular due to the freshness of the fish, and the subtle mixture of the other simple flavors. It was not overly rich, but the sauce still had enough flavor to be interesting and a creamy texture that seems to be different than what a lot of others have tried so far. Definitely recommended!

aquarium pics- Sean

These are some of my favorite pics from the aquarium. I hope you enjoy! I have yet to make my bass dinner but when I do I will post the pics. Everyone else's look great!

Monday, August 11, 2008

In the spirit of Voodoo Science

If you found Voodoo Science interesting, there was a short article in the Wall Street Journal today that commented on "Hyping Health Risks" by Geoffery C. Kabat. Kabat's book is along the same spirit of investigating and documenting junk science as Park's book.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Wrapping up...

It may be late but here are my two favorite whale watch pictures I had developed during the final class.

Now after that wonderful dissection of the striped bass, I prepared both the side fillet and the belly fillet (with scales on) over apple slices and carrot greens in white zinfandel with home made potato chips. I cooked both fillets over equal amounts of apple and greens with 1/2 cup of wine in a foil pouch. I put them on an electric fry pan at 420 for 2 minutes then brought them down to a simmer for 8. I then ate both fillets at the same time to determine differences, using the potato between samples to cleanse the palate. My observations were: The side fillet had very flaky soft flesh which was firmer. The darker fat parts (i love pcbs) were creamier and richer while the white parts were light. The Belly meat was stringier but had a softer taste and texture.
This was an amazing experiment, as I have never looked at the differences between two similar flavors that closely. Over all this course was a wonderful experience and enjoyed working with you all very much, I hope to see you all again some time. Feel free to contact me if there is anything I can help you with; I have a facebook.




I wanted to do a final post reflecting on the final days of our class... 
 I actually really enjoyed the group presentations... even though a lot of the information between groups was repetitive, I think that everyone managed to bring some type of interesting fact to the table that previous groups had not mentioned. I learned a lot doing my own research, and I actually found that the animals I looked at were extremely interesting!

Whale watching was by far one of the coolest things I've ever done. I've always wanted to go on a whale watching trip, but no one ever was willing to go with me! My mom had gone on one a few weeks prior to our trip, and she told me to look out for what looked like "mist" coming off the ocean. She was SO surprised to hear about how close the whales actually came to our boat!I rarely get to go on boats, so I absolutely loved the trip out. The ride was extremely bumpy, which I found to be really fun! I was hoping to see more wildlife around stellwagon bank, but don't get me wrong I was beyond pleased to see the whales. I think it would have been neat to take a look at some underwater photography of the area before I had left. Im sure there would have been a lot of really interesting sealife to be seen! Initially I was on the top level of the boat so that I could get a 360 degree view. I recognized the whales as humpback whales right away because of their oddly shaped dorsal fins. I absolutely couldn't believe how many whales there were. I thought it was so cool to be able to see the "prints" that the whales left on the ocean surface when they went down for a dive. I tried really hard to tell the difference between the mothers and their cubs, but to be honest I think I was a little too awe-struck to notice any size differences between the whales! It was also very difficult for me to tell the difference between all the different whales based on the colors of their tales. I think it's neat how the scientific world goes about naming the whales. The announcer on the boat said that they try to assign names that are reminiscent of the markings on the whales' tails; I definitely saw different markings, but Im not sure if any of the names reminded me of any of the markings. Another thing that I remember reading about was the humpback whale's fins... they are virtually all white, but appear to be green when viewed underwater. The announcer on the boat said the exact same thing, and when I moved to the bottom deck one of the whales came up extremely close and I was able to see that "green effect." It was awesome. I wish I had more descriptive words to use other than "awesome", "amazing", or "cool," but I was just so excited about seeing whales that Im almost at a loss for words. When I was little the aquarium had beluga whales, but they died in captivity before I ever got to see them. I was also not lucky enough to get to see shamu as a child at sea world! This was the first time I ever saw a whale and I absolutely loved it! My one regret is that we didn't see anything besides a humpback whale. 

This was also my first time in the 3 1/2 years I've lived in boston seeing the New England Aquarium. I thought that the jellyfish exhibit was spectacular! They had a really neat tank where you could change the lights that were shining in the tank and it made the jellyfish look like they were glowing neon colors! There were definitely a good number of different types of jellyfish to be seen! My favorite was the blue blubber... these little jellyfish were so chubby but they swam so fast I couldn't get a picture of them! In the touch-tank (meant for little kids) we found a periwinkle! I thought that was awesome. Everyone else was more interested in the horseshoe crabs....go figure. I also noticed that in the boston harbor/stellwagon bank exhibit there was no tunicate! I was very disappointed.... 

Finally, I am so thrilled that we got to take a look at a striped bass. I have never seen a fish filleted before, and I thought it was so interesting. I will definitely be making sure that I trim all the dark meat off of my fish from now on! I actually have a fishing trip planned with some friends for next week because I was so excited by our bass experiment! I took my filet home and I baked it in the oven with a little bit of olive oil, lemon juice, cracked pepper, salt, and tomatoes. I didnt really measure anything out, I just sort of poured it all together (im not the best in the kitchen)... but it was DELICIOUS. I made rice pilaf and sauteed spinach as sides. Seriously, this may have motivated me to take a cooking class. 

In general, I think this is one of the more exciting classes i've ever taken at BU. It was certainly the smallest, which was really neat because I actually got to meet people in my class. I loved all the hands on work we got to do, and the class definitely exposed me to a lot of stuff I think I never would have looked at on my own. For example, Im really interested in looking at some of the other harbor islands... and I'm no longer afraid of snails and slugs like I once was. I wouldn't actually say afraid, just more so grossed out. I think that voodoo science is a very interesting read as well, and I regret not being able to discuss it in class!

Thank you everyone for a great week! I wish you all luck on your final projects! See you on campus...

I CANT GET MY PICTURES TO LOAD...per usual :-( sorry everyone!

Final experiment

After our final class on Friday I brought home a piece of filet and cooked it for dinner that night. I rubbed the fish first with sea salt and pepper, then with garlic-infused olive oil. I sprinkled it with fresh chopped rosemary from my garden and added thin slices of lime. I placed the fish on aluminum foil and baked it at 450 degrees until it was cooked all the way through (approximately 10 minutes). The result was excellent! These results were confirmed by independent peer review by my brother. Since he himself is an excellent cook, I took this to be quite a high compliment.

Rosemary-lime large mouth bass filet served with spicy chili-garlic spinach and herbed couscous, garnished with fresh cherry tomatoes.

Voodoo Science

Has anyone started voodoo science yet? I found the part about Jesus consuming bee pollen after his resurrection to be quite hysterical.

Zen and the art of Fish Filleting

The experiment was conducted in the kitchen Laboratory. The specimen looked at was a Striped Bass caught by our instructor the day before in Boston Harbor. (Just kidding) This particular bass is of unknown origin, but probably came from the Chesapeake Bay. However, Striped Bass are known to get around. Some external observations: The bass had 8 lateral lines on the external surface. There was also a spiny dorsal fin with about 6 spines. A more posterior dorsal fin closer to the tail yielded a softer texture, and had another softer spine. Something interesting to note are the differences in fishing rules for fish caught in different regions. In the Chesapeake, fish can only be eaten if they are under 25 inches long. This is due to chemicals called PCBs that bio-accumulate in the dark, fatty meat of the fish. Anything under 25 inches is safer to eat. If one still worries, the fatty portion of the bass can always be trimmed. In Boston Harbor, Stripers can only be eaten if they are over 25 inches in length. This is to ensure a healthy population of bass is kept. The larger bass will have most likely spawned, and this protects the population from over fishing. Now for the fun part...

Our professor filleted the fish by first making an incision just behind the gill slit. He easily cut along the backbone of the fish, moving anterior to posterior, being particularly careful to stay above the spine. He also had to be careful not to puncture the intestines of the fish, as this would render the fillet inedible. Once the first fillet was cut, he let some of the students take a hack at it. The next area to be cut I can only describe as the fish "Cheeks", or the facial meat. This is the best meat to make sashimi with, as some of our students realized. After the edible meat was cut, we took a look at some of the fish's internal organs. The contents of the stomach were empty, meaning the fish had already digested its last meal before it was caught. This fish was also female. It had an empty and fully developed egg sac, which means it had most likely spawned this last season. The bristle like gills were bright red, and the heart was a small pinkish organ the size of a marble. The liver was dark brown, and looked similar to a human liver in color and texture. (I was unclear of the shape, as it got a little messed up during the dissection.) After the dissection, students got to take home some fillets. Unfortunately, I don't eat fish, so I didn't take any home. After telling my roommates this story, they were a little upset I did not take a fillet to cook for them! Thanks for everything, I had a great time.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Last Day of Class!

I did NOT expect the last day of class to be spent like this but I am glad I stuck around for it! This massive Striped Bass was dissected by the professor and fellow classmates at our very own Boston University. All of us got our hands a little messy in order to get a thorough examination of the fish, inner organs and all! 


First off, I didn't realize the art behind filleting a fish. This was the only experience I've had in seeing it out of the coffin, onto the table, cut up, and then made ready to eat right then and there. 

I stood there the whole time staring so I wasn't able to record much in my notebook - my memory isn't the best either. So, I can only recall a few points; the dark red meat is considered to be the fat of the fish - PCBs (toxins) are known to be found in this area. 

In addition, to tell if the fish is fresh you can look at the eyes and the color of its gills. One point about this particular fish that stuck with me was the fact that when a striped bass feels threatened or is attacked, it will vomit. This is probably the most bizarre defense mechanism I've ever heard of but apparently it can work quite well - unfortunately not for this fellow!

I decided to head out as soon as Chef Bruce began preparing the Sashimi. I hope you all enjoyed it - it looks like you guys did! 

Yours Truly, 
Liz Z


Snails again...

More about our land snails...


"The white-lipped snail (Cepaea hortensis) and the grove snail (C. nemoralis) are very closely related. The two species share the same habitats, although the range of the white-lipped snail extends closer to the Arctic in Northern Europe.

The white-lipped snail is very slightly smaller than the grove snail, but shares the same variation in shell colour and banding. The two species can mate and reproduce.

The principal difference between them is that the grove snail has a dark brown lip to its shell, while the white lipped snail has a white lip. However, this distinguishing feature is not entirely reliable as there is at least one morph of the grove snail which also has a white lip."

From the University of Paisley Biodiversity Reference

"C. nemoralis is slightly the larger of the two when mature, and it characteristically has a dark lip to the shell.
C. hortensis typically has a white lip to the shell and shows a preference for slightly damper places.

These differences are not, however, reliable, and C. nemoralis has an uncommon white-lipped morph. Their identities can be confirmed only by dissection. They commonly occur together and, consequently, these photographs represent individuals named on a basis of probabilty.

This morphological similarity between the species has implications for the many genetic studies of wild populations - identifications are unreliable when based on shells alone."

FYI: The definitive answer is to be found by a careful comparison of the snails "love darts."

Hope this both satisfies and stimulates your curiosity.

Tomorrow: The 37 inch bass I caught on my boat after class today!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Last Day: What a day!! (Kris pandeli)

Friday, August 8, 2008.
Boston University
Kitchen Lab

Last Day: Dissecting Wild Striped Bass

What a way to end class. First we get a breeze of Boston Harbor, and then we get to explore the islands, snails and whales. And then we get a taste of the fresh Stripe Bass. Dissecting the 3ft long Bass was cool in certain ways. 1. We get to cut it 2. We get to learn about its organs, and 3. The best part of it, we get to eat it. The fish was big and fresh, you could tell from the gills as seen in the picture to the right. First it was fresh because I could see the red gills, indicating that it was caught the day before. The second way that I could tell it was fresh is,,,,well, we picked it up the day before at John Nagle Co.,

Anyways, “E tu Brute” said the fish when Professor Bruce Berman stabbed him. The professor explained and demonstrated as seen in the picture on how to fillet the fish, and along with him a few students took turns to follow his instructions. Ironic, the same thing happened to Julius Cesar. I’m just joking. I must agree with Erald in saying that the professor was an expert when it comes to filleting and making sushi, but when it comes to real the Chef Boyardee , AKA Kris Pandeli, just check out the pictures of the Fired Wild Stripe Bass Dish I prepared, and ate it all by myself. Well I couldn’t wait to eat it anyways, it was fresh and I was hungry, besides I took home tow pieces. I love eating fish. And now I know where to get it fresh. With a discount too!!!

The recipe of my dish included: Salt, black pepper, a little of olive oil, lemon and lemon juice, bay leaves, and accompanied by a glass of wine. I had to make it look good. Well it tasted even better.

In the end it wasn’t just about the tasty wild stripe bass, or the snails, well it was but, it was about the whole Mass Bay. Living here in Boston for 8 years I learned, in just a week, how important it is to take care of our harbor. How interconnected everything is, from tiny creatures of the Barking Crab to the whales of the Stellwagen Bank to our city and to all of us. It is like the domino effect, we all are a big cycle and we can affect one another in our surroundings, and if we take care of it we are taking care of ourselves.

~ Kris Pandeli

Striped Bass-Part I

Caitlin Klinger
August 8, 2008
Location: Food Laboratory at Boston University

We were lucky enough to obtain a Striped Bass for multiple varieties of examination. I'm sure much of this will echo what Erald has said, but I'll continue anyway. The fish weighed approximately 17 pounds and appears to be about three feet in length by visual examination alone. One thing that surprised me was how hard the scales were (at least when dry-I've never felt one underwater), which I suppose acts as a form of protection for the animal. This was what the 17-lb Striped Bass looked like before Bruce got his hands on...I mean, dissected it.
Bruce taught us how to cut the fillet off of a fish. In order to do so, he made two long cuts lengthwise down the fish, one one each side of the dorsal fin. Bruce let any willing volunteers try their hand at cutting the fish.

Students getting their chance to cut the fillet:

Bruce explained to us that the darker meat had a greater concentration of fat than the lighter meat. It is in the darker meat that toxins such as PAHs and PCBs can accumulate due to the amount of fat (Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and Polychlorinated biphenls for anyone who wants to know more). I have not posted any pictures of this for those viewers who have sensitive stomachs, but after the fillets were cut, Bruce proceeded to the internal organs. I was surprised to see that the majority of the fish's vital organs were located in the front third of it's body. This makes sense because the fish's rear half needs to be streamlined for swimming (and also part of why the head gets left behind in cooking), it's simply something to which I had never given much thought.

We examined the fish's stomach to see if any of its stomach contents were still remaining. Unfortunately for anyone wanting to know exactly what this specimen was eating, we found the stomach to be completely empty. Bruce explained that this could be explained by a natural defense mechanism that Striped Bass often employ. If the bass feels it is in danger of becoming a meal, it throws up its food in the hope that the predator will take the free meal instead of the one that requires some effort. A good strategy for the bass, but not as exciting for us.

After examining some of the fish's other organs, we turned our attention to a special section of belly meat that Bruce had set aside just after cutting the fillets. These pieces had the honor of becoming sashimi right there and then in the Food Laboratory. The remaining class members enjoyed the combination soy sauce, wasabi and ginger (or if you're like me and are intolerant of hot foods, just soy sauce with floating bits of wasabi) and the result was truly delicious. I cannot think of a more unique, interesting and enjoyable way to wrap up what was a sincerely memorable and possibly concentration-changing experience for me. Thanks everyone!

I leave you with members of the class eating sashimi:

Striped Bass

Erald Pelari
Date: August 8, 2008
Objective: Cutting and Dissecting a Wild Stripe Bass

First of all I would like to let everyone know that Bruce and I stayed up all night trying to catch this striped bass (See pic). Actually the truth is that this fish was a donation from the John Nagle Co., a whole sale seafood company in the Boston Fish Pier. I want to thank the Nagle family for providing us this fish and allowing us to have an interesting class on this last day. If you want to know more about the John Nagle Co. please feel free to go at their website The fish is 17 lbs and was about 3 ft long, fresh of the waters of Mass Bay, possible from Cape Cod.
Today we learned how to fillet a fish and about its organs and how they operate. Students participated in the filleting of the fish, a unique experience for everyone (See pics). Sean had not eaten fish in like 10 years and he decided to eat some sashimi with soy sauce and ginger. The Striped Bass was fresh, and some tips to know whether the fish is fresh or not is to:
Eyes- need to be sort of popping out, meaning that they are not wrinkly and can very easily be pushed down.
Gills- need to be bright red
Odor of fish- is distinct and smells like seawater, no bad odder
There are other ways but these are the three things I am looking for in a fish and see if it is fresh.

I think we can all say that Prof. Berman is an expert in fish cutting. He also made sure that the best parts of the fish were used for the sashimi part of the experiment. I guess he wanted to find something on the fish’s stomach to indicate what the fish had eaten, but according to what he said in class the fish must have thrown up prior to being pulled in the boat. Striped bass tend to throw up their food if they feel that a predatory fish is trying to get them, so that the odor of the digested food might throw of the predator.

What a great ending to this class. I hope everyone enjoyed the experience and remember we need to have a clean harbor so that everyone can enjoy it, the beach and the various species that the ocean offers to us.

This picture shows us eating sashimi (I hope this is the right terminology. Not a big fan of raw fish)

Finding the black snails

As I mentioned in a previous post, Shashana and I decided to look in the concrete depressions that are the remnants of the old military installation. I believe they are approximately here (Lat/long: 42.329735,-70.929102). I looked carefully in the leaf litter of the far left (west) depression. The leaf litter was mostly black or dark dark brown in color. There were many slugs approximately 1cm in length and red ants on the leaf litter, but no obvious snails at first. I mistook a number of seed pods and other pieces of detritus for snails before I found the first tiny (1-2mm wide) black snail. After I knew what to look for, I was able to find more with careful looking. Though there weren’t a huge abundance of them, there were certainly more to be collected than the two that we brought back to the group. I did not look carefully in the other two depressions for these snails.

Observations for August 7, 2008

Thursday, August 7, 2008
Location: Stellwagen Bank, mostly NW corner; New England Aquarium

On our trip to Stellwagen Bank, we tried to identify Baleen whales and observe the behaviors that we could view from our vantage point (which probably changed depending on which deck you chose). As far as I could tell, the only species of Baleen whale that we saw were Humpback Whales. At one point, there was a group, or "association", of six of seven whales feeding very near our boat. We were told that it is rare to see a group this large, and that they would probably stay together for a few hours to about two weeks at most. This association of whales included two mothers and their calves (Cajun and her calf, and Crown? and her calf...can someone help me confirm those names?) and you could easily see the difference in size between the full-grown mother and the maturing calf. While they were feeding, they stayed fairly close to the surface, swimming and using their blow holes. Eventually they all decided to dive, at which point the naturalist on board was able to identify them based on their tail, or fluke pattern. As others have said, I was looking forward to identifying multiple types of Baleen whales, and on this trip we only saw Humpbacks. However, it was truly amazing to see that many creatures of such shear size from such a close distance. Even though I have been on another whale watch that some people might describe as "more exciting", I can certainly say that this whale watch was probably more enjoyable because I felt I understood the whales better from a scientific standpoint and in turn, had more respect for them as living creatures rather than entertainment.

I have to admit that a few of us spent a significant amount of time on the top level of the giant tank at the New England Aquarium. It happened to be feeding time, so there was a lot to see and observe. Downstairs, they had an area with many jellyfish. It was fascinating to see up-close how the large jellyfish moved, something I had never seen before.
The aquarium also had an exhibit on Boston Harbor, Massachusetts Bay and Stellwagen Bank, which are obviously very recent subjects for all of us. I found this map of the harbor islands to be pretty interesting. The pink coloring represents open land (meadow, scrib, and sumac), the blue coloring represents wetlands, the green coloring represents forests, the lighter, almost aqua, blue represents tidal flats, and the parallel lines represent drumlin contours. The pink shading on the map of Lovells Island immediately made me think of the snails in the sumacs that we had found just three days earlier.
I was a little disappointed that none of the tanks in the aquarium seemed to have any sponges in them (perhaps because they wouldn't be very interesting to a general population-the aquarium needs to generate revenue like anyone else to keep their doors open, but this is all total speculation). One thing I did see a lot of, however, were Frilled Anemones. After following a hunch that what I had seen at the Barking Crab was not, in fact, a Frilled Anemone, I had been looking at pictures of anemones to see if I could resolve the matter. Seeing the Frilled Anemones in person certainly did just that. I have yet to confirm what the anemones at the Barking Crab actually were, but I intend to do just that and post it as a comment in my original analysis of the dock. More on this later, but here is a picture of a Frilled Anemone from the aquarium. Case not quite closed.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Whale Watching @ Stellwagen Bank

Kris Pandeli

Thursday, August 7 2008

Whale Watching @ Stellwagen Bank

I have been living in Boston for the past 8 years and I never knew what I was really missing out on. To see whales on TV is interesting but to see them in person is fascinating. The day began as usual, we all meet at the Longwharf at around 8:30 AM and then we took the 9:30 AM boat to go see whales. From my experience, I always heard people say that they went whale watching but never saw anything. So I was hopping that would not be the case today. And it wasn’t. Not too long before the ship had come to an almost complete stop I and my classmates were rushing to get to the top deck. There was some sort of silence as people were trying to spot anything around the boat, and then I saw everyone rushing to the font side. There for the first time in my life I could claim that I saw a whale. And the cool thing is that I could identify it. It was a humpback whale. The research that I did for my short assignment the day before was very helpful because I researched the different whales that could be spotted at the Stellwagen Bank.

Actually there was a pack of whales or as I overheard someone say that they were in association. Nevertheless, they were amazing to look at. Their back was black and looked slippery, must have been from their oily skin. The underneath was white with some sort of pattern. The tour guide said that they can identify each one of them by the white and black pattern of the whale’s flukes. And then I heard her identify the biggest two as Cajun and Crown. The smaller whales swimming alongside them were their young calves. The tour guide also said that the whales were “logging”, meaning that they were sort of just floating in the water. But when you least expect it they all dove down and disappeared for about 5-7 minutes. Then on the other side of the boat they reappeared. As they were coming out of the water again you could first spot their long whiter flippers and then you could see the head get exposed and then the humpback of the whale. This process was repetitive. Ooo and yeahh, I say the blowholes and not too long after this bad smell, like some bad broccoli, it was their bad breath. I took pictures and video clips so that I could show to my family members and also to post here on the blog. But at some point I stopped taking picture because I just wanted to enjoy looking at the whales.

This trip was very very exciting and I plan on doing again with my family members, so that they can see the whales too. I will be their guide this time around. Enjoy the short clip below!!

~Kris Pandeli

Sorry about the late post, Work issues, troubles in Asia

Over the years, I have enjoyed several different whale watches with friends and family. Sometimes watching, the people onboard who have never witnessed these great animals up close and observing their anticipation and excitement once we spot the first blow from the whale, is just as rewarding as seeing a whale for the first time. 

Everyone has done such a great job capturing today’s’ sights and sound through their observations. My are much simpler, enjoying casual conversations with other classmates, watching the harbor islands, lighthouses and distance land masses as we glide by, a mobile phone without a signal, waves lifting and lowering the boat and daydreaming about the days when “rum running schooners” used Stellwagen Bank as there economic engine. 

Thanks everyone for an enjoyable day,

Timothy Cahalane

Whale Watch - Thursday, August 7, 2008

Shashanna Anderson 

Today it was overcast and about 68 degrees outside. The boat departed at 9:30am EST and headed for Stellwagen, which is about an hour and thirty mins from (25 miles East of Boston) from Boston. I waited patiently and had a feeling of excitement since this was my first whale watch. I shared my excitement with other classmates who had also never been on a whale watch. I was curious to see which kind of mammals we would encounter : Humpback Whale, Fin Whales, Minke Whales, and Atlantic White-side Dolphins. Although I was hopeful, I really didn't think I would see a North Atlantic Right Whale since they are rarely seen.

As the boat reached its destination, I was looking out in the distance and I saw a black tail and a few seconds later, water shoot into the air about 5 feet. I thought I had seen my first whale. My excitement grew even more. Than a family of six Humpback Whales come to the surface about 100 ft from the boat. They were "rounding out" which made the formation of going in circles. I could see the whales shoot water, then it's back following by its tail. I didn't get to see the tail of all of the whales. I observed 2 Humpback whales sleeping and learned that they sleep 20 minutes a day, unlike humans who sleep 8 hours (I wish...).

I truly enjoyed the trip and had a great experience. I would recommend that everyone do at least one whale watch once in his/her lifetime. It makes you appreciate and respect the wonderful mammals that are part of our world. 

humpback video-

So how many humpbacks are there? I see 6...

from snails to WHALES!!

Today we went aboard the New England Aquarium vessel (Explorer II?) that took us to the Stellwagen Bank to try to observe whales. I went on a whale watch once before long, long time ago. It was out of Provincetown and all I remember is how amazed I was by the size of these creatures. Needless to say I was enthusiastic to go this (second) time with a hope to once again observe these mammals. This time around I was much more informed both on the place that we were going (Stellwagen bank) and on the whales themselves (thanks to a research paper that we had to do before today’s voyage) so that made the trip that more enjoyable (and even educational!)
The ride out there was fun, after we started moving I left the cabin and walked to the front left of the ship observing the Boston harbor, and keeping an eye for potential whales (u never know!). About an into the ride a bunch of my classmates started to make their way to the top deck claiming that they think we are here ... so I followed them. Once on the top I went over to the right side and started staring into the distance looking for whales. Not before long I saw a dorsal fin in the distance. While I was focusing on it I noticed a commotion in the front of the ship and proceed to move there. There I saw at least 4 whales breaking the surface and blowing air out of their blowholes. They were dark and looked leathery and slippery. The whales proceeded to dive and I saw a their flukes (well a couple of them). The whales resurfaced after about 5 minutes and this time I even heard them as their were blowing air out of their blowholes. This time around, I counted 6 of them. They were logging, diving, swimming around.
After enjoying a good arial view I proceeded down to the first deck to get up-close and personal with these whales. I was not disappointed about 10 minutes after I came down I was standing on the left side of the boat and a couple of whales surfaced right infront of me (kind of took me by surprise as I was not expecting that). I saw they blowholes (initially it looked like they had 3 holes close together, in a triangle, but later I changed my mind as I only saw 2). I think one of the whales was named Cajun and one was Crown, 2 of the whales where calves). I learned later that it was weird seeing so many of them together since whales do not live in packs and are not attached to each other (except for the mothers and their calves)
Our tour guide was saying over the speaker that she could identify all of the whales by the design/patter on their flukes (it is like a fingerprint for humans). She explained how they name the whales after they are two years (2 reasons for that: 1) their pattern is changing before and only after 2 years the pattern finalizes and 2) they want to make sure the calf survives), so after they see the baby 2 summers in a row the “experts” in the field all pitch in their ideas for the name and they have a big naming party to vote on the best one. The name cannot be that of a human, it has to strictly do with the design of the fluke and what it reminds them of.
I definitely saw more whales than I expected on this trip and a lot closer than I predicted. Needless to say I was left very satisfied with today’s trip!!


Whale watching

Today was the day I have been waiting for and it was definitely worth waiting.  I have never seen whale that actually lives and swims around the ocean and I was real excited.  It took us about an hour and a half to watch whale, and I was already having fun at the boat. I was kind of surprised how many people on the boat got sea sick and to people like me who likes to feel the bounce and flow, it was hard to understand.  I was hoping to see the right whales but what we saw today was just incredible. 
The weather today was rainy and I was little worried that we might not be able to observe any, but there were so many of them whales, much more than I have expected. We saw one type of whale only, humpback whale. It was named so because it has hump on the back. After about an hour on the boat I noticed the black fin on the water, and started to see many of them from every directions. Whales I saw were blackish, some were shooting the water out of blowholes, and others were cruising around, diving into the water as their tales were revealed. The color of its tale was mixture of white and black, whiter on inner side of tale. One thing I found interesting was that when whales go to sleep, they float on the water as their brain shuts down.
Another amazing scene was when there were groups of about 7 of them swim together. I got a chance to take a close look at them and  I was remarkably surprised by their sizes.  Them whales were freaking HUGE!
It was amazing, amazing day and I am sure that everyone enjoyed it.  Now I am looking forward to observe sharks!  Where them sharks at??

Stellwagen Bank Whale Watch observations

Observation #1: Dramamine does not always work as well as advertised.

Observation #2: Whales are amazing.

Departure from Boston Inner Harbor- 9:30am

Whale observations: 10-10:30am

After about the first hour of the trip out, I started to notice the presence of more birds and then some seaweed floating in the water. I presumed that meant that we were at or near Stellwagen Bank. Shortly thereafter, the boat slowed and then stopped at the site where we saw one or two humpback whales surface. The ensuing encounter proved to be one of the most amazing whale watching experiences I have ever had. There was a group of 6-7 individuals, including two mother-calf pairs. Although the animals dove a number of times, they always resurfaced again very close to the boat, giving us about a dozen close views of the group.

What was most awe-inspiring about the animals was just how big they were. They had black smooth-looking skin with remarkably small dorsal fins for their size. When they surfaced to breathe, their double blow holes were visible. Each blow hole appeared to be about 6” across and 8-10" tall on the adults, when they were fully open. It was obvious when the animals were preparing for a deep dive because they would hunch their backs (thus the source of their common name), and that was a good signal to get the cameras ready for shots of their flukes. The flukes are distinctive for every individual (after they turn 2 years old), so these patterns allow observers to identify named individuals. This group had two named individuals – Cajun and Crown, each of which had a calf – and the other individuals did not appear to have names recorded on this boat. The pectoral fins also have distinctive white markings, which appear to glow green under water because of the amount of plankton in the water.

I have seen humpbacks on whale watches a number of times, but today was the first time I got a good close-up view of their faces. It was so amazing to get to see this so close! The undersides of their jaws (comparable to the front of a human’s neck) appear to be ribbed, and the skin surface along their upper jaw (comparable to our cheeks and lips) is covered in bumps called rostral knobs. I believe the tour guide said that these are used to aid when the animals use their rostral ends as battering rams, presumably in fights. I felt really lucky to get to see these features so close and in such detail.

The only thing I was disappointed about today (besides Dramamine’s performance) was that we didn’t get to see any other types of whales. We saw numerous birds, but I am not very familiar with sea birds so was unable to identify anything besides common seagulls. Besides the birds, the only other animals I saw were a number of fish jumping out of the water a distance from the boat, shortly before a different small group of whales surfaced in the same spot. It was difficult to identify the fish, or even the scale of their size since there was nothing to compare them to, but they appeared to be silvery and I guessed they were approximately 2 feet long. Since I couldn’t identify them, it was difficult to guess whether they were hunting the same food the whales were, or were being hunted themselves.

Go Patriots!

Whale Watching

Personal experiences whale watching:

This whale watch was my third or fourth one I believe. This particular whale watch had much better views of the whales than any of the others I remember. Today we saw a group of humpback whales. One of the things that ES141 has taught me is too look for patterns and attributes that may relate to explain the factual reason behind something else. I noticed an area of the water that was flat and smooth and had been unaffected by the normal noise of ocean waves. The area was caused by the whale diving which creates forces on the water that creates the smoothness effect. Old whalers had incorrectly thought this was oil on top of the water. Another fact about whales I was not aware of was the whale can stay stationary with their blowhole exposed, and they did that frequently. From the photos I was surprised to see how much the underside of the humpback looks like it was painted white. Even the top side of the humpback has a dark gray painted look to it. I did suffer the same motion sickness on the way in as everyone else did and must also note the Dramamine was not as effective as I would have expected, though I suspect being on three hours of sleep was more likely the cause. Still, definitely the most enjoyable whale watch I have ever been on.

As this is a blog, I thought it would be appropriate to put in a brief mention about the camera I used, since a few asked about it. It's a Sony Digital SLR A100 10 megapixel camera using a Tamron 75-300mm F4/5.6 lens. I used Paint Shop Pro 9 to quickly adjust the lighting in the photos.

Whales Whales Whales!

Today was a great day to be out in Stellwagen Bank. I'm new to the whole whale watching scene but after today's lovely excursion to sea I will without a doubt be going again. The ride up was more bumpy than expected and the roughness seemed to have gotten to a lot of people. I found that being outside in the fresh air definitely helped so I spent the majority of the ride out on the lower deck. 

On our way, I noticed some small seabirds that were flying close to the surface of the water. They had black and white markings and sort of paddled their feet on the water. I found out that these are called Storm Petrels. I was also told that they're mean and spit at you but have no evidence to prove this so...we shall see. 

 The boat stopped about 28 miles out at the north west part of the Bank and that's when the whales started to grace us with their presence. I was amazed at how close we actually were to these huge mammals! I found the announcer to be quite informative in explaining the physical features of the whales we saw and how they get their names (by 2 years of age- fluke pattern, scar or other physical feature). 
I ended up learning some new terms in the process as well - association, tubercles, rounding out...I know there are some more but they're not coming to mind right now. 

I was able to see 6 humpback whales but word is out that there were maybe 7 out there? 2 of which were named Crown and Cajun - both had one calf! 

I felt lucky to observe the number of whales we did because apparently they rarely group together in the way we all saw them today! 

Maybe the next time I venture out on a whale watch I'll be able to see some other marine life that is part of Stellwagen - seals, dolphins, turtles...maybe a right whale? 

Great times! 

Whale watching on Stellwagen Bank

I have never been on a whale watch before and was very excited. I did not know what to expect and was kind of nervous that we would not see any whales at all. Well I had no reason to be nervous because I had a Whale of a time!! haha. Seriously though, I have never seen whales before and to be able to see them that close was really remarkable. What I first noticed about them was their size. I had no idea that they were that large. The Humpback Whale, which we observed, was unique. The whale gets its name from the small hump on its back behind its fin and has greenish tint to its skin and fins under the water. What I found interesting was how the whales today traveled together in what are called associations. I always thought whales were the type of creature that swam solo, but seeing them swim together in almost unison really displays the beauty of the mammal.
When the whales rose to the water and blew the air out of its spot, I noticed that the blowhole was not just one, but rather three holes together. Also the air it shot out was a lot higher than I anticipated. After they released the air they dove to feed. When they did this it was possible to see the underlings of their tail. Some of the tails where all white while others had a mix of both white and blue. After the dive the surface was left with a calming sensation, which stayed on the waters surface for about a minute. After following the whales for about an hour we headed in and I took a nap, which was must needed.
My aquarium visit was brief, but I did take in the jellyfish exhibit along with the Sharks and Penguins. Some of the Jellyfish were really different and I was set back by how many different kinds there were. The shark’s tank was anticlimactic because I only saw two sharks, and after watching shark week all last week on TV, I was waiting for him to attack the diver or jump over the glass. No such luck. Overall I would have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed my day, both on the water and out.

WHALE WATCH ...........

As I am in High school Honors Program The University people took us for the whale watch and aquarium two weeks back and I found it quit boring but the one today was amazing I really enjoyed it , we were kind of surrounded by whales today. I saw Humpback whales and they were awesome black and huge . Today I many things about whales some interesting facts too like whales have smaller lungs than humans and they are very well adapted to the environment.Whales generally do not hang out together or if you find them in a group then they do not really care whom are they and hang out themselves. I noticed two activities "logging and Blow" . according to a guide to whale behavior BLOW refers to both the act of breathing and the cloud of air and condensed water that the whale releases voluntarily at the surface and LOGGING is when a whale lies at a surface . It is believed that whales do not actually sleep but rest half their brain at a time during this inactive state.I even learned that the whales have hump back and are the only whales which have hair . I saw around 7-8 whales and know only the name of two one was crown and the other one was Cajun . I saw some whales diving and learned that whales are recognized by the type of tails they have and they are like fingerprints for them .
Overall it was a very good experience and I loved it .

Jonah had good company

well chris stole the only good whale pun so that harpoons the into to my blog... but seriously today was much more fun than I thought a whale watch would be. I have never been sea sick before, but I did not want to chance it so I took 1 Dramamine anyways and I feel like it was a wise choice. The ride out was fine for me, actually it was quite entertaining trying to walk without seeing the upcoming swells and watching small children running around bounce off of walls and railings. About 1/2 to 2/3 of the way there I was at the top level and saw a pointed dorsal fin break the water at 7 o'clock (stern/back) a couple times. I think it may have been a Fin whale, Minke Whale or possible a rare Sei Whale (all of which have more pointed dorsal fins).
As we neared our location about 28 nautical miles away from Boston I saw whales breaking the surface and blowing in the distance - it was the only thing to break the horizon except other ships. (on a related note I still do not understand how the fishing with kites works, is it illegal? technically legal?). The first specimen I saw was a humpback whale logging - that is resting half of its brain while floating on the surface of the water. As we went farther we saw a group of 6-7 whales (Cajun and her calf, Crown and her calf as well as 2-3 other humpbacks which were not easily identifiable by Heather) This group was strange because it was so large - baleen whales do not live in pods and are usually alone except while with their calves. They sometimes congregate for hours, days or maybe even a week or two at most. They could be seen logging, doing Fluke down dives and I even thought I saw them show a few lunges where they move quickly forward (as opposed to diving and surfacing) to capture water (and the food swimming in it) in their large roqual mouthes. Almost as if to prove they were eating, they left a wonderful scat streak in the water which released a smell exactly as you would expect. My disposable camera ran out of pictures right as one came extremely close to the left side of the boat, fortunately chris and his rapid-fire camera got some absolutely amazing shots of it. After watching the whales live their daily lives we moved on in search of others which did not yield anything as wonderful as the first group. Eventually we turned around and left, at which point I fell asleep until we returned to port.
I understand how they can differentiate the whales by the markings on their flukes and the large scar on Crown's back, but was anybody able to look at a picture of just a fluke and definitively say which whale it was? The scar was all I had to go on, I do not see a crown shape or a cajun shape (nor do I know what a cajun shape would be) on any flukes, can somebody illuminate this for me?

Whale Watch- Sean

Today we went a whale watch that took us to the north western corner of Stellwagen Bank. From the dock it took us approximately one and a half hours to reach our destination. I was actually surprised at the number of whales we were able to observe. We came upon a group of 6 or 7 humpback whales that were acting a little more social than normal. The guide on the boat informed us that these whales tend to prefer solitude and are found by themselves with the exception of mothers and calves. So this was a unique find. We saw at least 4 adults and 2 calves. There is speculation as to the exact number of individuals in this group so I have a short video so you can see the number in this group. I will post it if I get an ok from Bruce.
Our guide was very informative and I learned a lot about these whales and their habits. They prefer to eat the sand lance living on the sea floor. when they dive to the bottom they will swim on their sides with their mouths open and scrape the bottom. Interestingly they tend to prefer one side over another when they feed and over time they develop scars on the sides of their faces. I was surprised at the ability of the guide to identify the individual adults from memory. Adult humpback whales form distinct patterns on the bottom side of their flukes that allow us to identify the individuals. Apparently to the point that from a quick look can tell them apart. This leads to an intersting story from our guide on how the individuals are actually names. Only after a calve reaches the age of three will it be given a name. Until this point the patterns on the flukes are milky and have not "permanently set", also to make sure they name individuals that we most likely survive. After they are of mature age a photo is taken of the flukes and a bunch of experts get together and vote on the best name for the individual. They are not given human names but names that reflect the pattern on the flukes.
After observing this group for a while it was time to head back to Boston. This was a wonderful trip and I believe everyone had a great time, except for that one guy that had his head on a table the entire trip. A word of advice to anyone with motion or sea sickness, take the medicine before you get on the boat!