Thursday, August 6, 2009

Humback Whales

Today began with the greeting outside of the Massachusetts State House in Boston. Our class then proceeded inside to the HB 306 hearing where Bruce elaborated convincingly to the panel of the importance and justification for the protection of the Boston Harbor National Park in order to ensure its industrially undeveloped use for our Commonwealth and wildlife alike.

We then boarded the ship to today's whale watch over the southern part of Stellwagen Bank. Two Humpback Whales decided to surface while there; one was set on feeding and the other was happy with splashing along the surface. Our ship was located just over five miles north of Provincetown, Cape Cod.

Observations of the feeding whale: The first whale, estimated by the Captain's crew as approximately 50 feet in length, was a young Humpback Whale feeding for its long journey ahead later this year to the warm waters of the Caribbean's Silver Bank (for mating). Since the waters were dark and murky, visibility for the whales was only approximately 10 feet in the 100 foot depths of the water. Therefore, the whale was required to use its "whiskers" or vibrissas in order to forage for food (10 - 12 thousand pounds of krill, herring, mackerel, pollock, and haddock). Like humans using their left or right hands to write, Humpbacks use their left or right side to feed. I could not positively identify whether or not this particular whale was a 'leftie" or a "rightie", however, the way to find out would be to look for the noticible scraps along the whales jaw area.

Observations of the splashing whale: The second whale continuously breached the surface, performed penduncal throws, and slapped its approximately 15 foot pectoral fins along the surface (as seen in the links above). A way of identifying the Humpback is by its unique tail fin. This particular whale had many ridges along the top of its tail fin.

As far as the whale eating question goes, personally, if the species is sustainable even with humans harvesting a particular species AND our society accepts such consumption (note: dogs and cats), than I see no reason why we can't enjoy a bit 'o whale here and there.

My last class @ BU tomorrow....see you then.

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