Thursday, August 7, 2008

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!


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