Thursday, August 7, 2008

Whale Watch Observations

I would first like to note that Dramamine is a LIFE SAVER. I cannot communicate enough how sick I would have been without taking it. With that said, this was probably the most rewarding whale watch I have ever been on. Not only were we lucky enough to see whales within close proximity, but they were also demonstrating some unusual behavior. All whales observed were humpbacks. We could tell because of their "humped" back and stout dorsal fins. Also, they have white flippers which appeared to glow green in the water. Four of the whales spotted were mother and calf. Crown, named for a crown like marking on her fluke, and Cajun, named for her spicy personality! (Just kidding). Both were nursing mothers and had calves with them. Humpbacks make a 3,000 mile migration every year to Stellwagen in order to feed in the nutrient rich waters. In the winter, the Dominican Republic waters is their breeding ground. It is most likely that Crown and Cajun's new calves were birthed this past winter. They did not have names yet. Calves typically aren't named until their second year spotted at Stellwagen. This is because their identifying markers or "fluke fingerprints" aren't fully developed. Also, the naturalists want to make sure that the calves have survived for a period of time before they are cataloged. The gestation period for female humpbacks is one year. The babies are born 15 feet long and weigh about 1.5 tons. Their mothers milk is 98% fat and has a "cottage cheese" consistency. Something else observed was that Humpbacks have 2 blowholes. From a previous whale watch I learned that their spray has a "cooked broccoli" odor to it. This was something else my nose and I observed today. I'm pretty sure Chris's nose observed the same thing! Something that I didn't know before this experience was that Humpbacks don't only eat krill, but fish as well. How interesting! One particular group of Humpbacks, including Crown and Cajun, were demonstrating unusual behavior. The fact that I just used the word "group" in the last sentence says it all. Humpbacks typically travel solo, and not in pods. This time there was a clear pod of about 6 or 7 whales that appeared to be feeding together. Although not necessarily true pod behavior, there may have just been an abundance of food in that particular area, but it was still interesting to observe none-the-less. Also I would like to point out that the overcast sky made it easier to spot the whales. On a sunny day, there would have been little contrast between them and the water. The gray sky provided a better backdrop. I had an excellent day, and look forward to going stripe bass fishing tomorrow. *HINT WINK*

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