Friday, August 8, 2014

Whale Watching on Stellwagen Bank

Whale Watching Assignment
01 August 2014
01:00 PM-02:45 PM
Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary

 About this Marine Protected Area

Type:National Marine Sanctuary
Protection:None of this MPA is no-take (fishing and removal of other resources is prohibited)
Size:2191.1299 sq km of sea, 2191.1299 sq km total area including land
Region:South East Pacific
Managing Organization:

The Local Residents:
Humpback Whales
(Megaptera novaeanigliae)

North Star and Hippocampus


Weight:        25-40 tons (50,000-80,000 lbs; 22,000-                              36,000 kg); newborns weigh about 1 ton
                     (2,000 lbs 900 kg)

Length:        Up to 60 feet (18 m), with females larger
                      than males; newborns are about 15 ft
                     (4.5 m) long

Appearance:  Primarily dark grey, with some areas of                              white

Lifespan:        About 50 years

Diet:               Tiny crustaceans (mostly krill), plankton, 
                        and small fish; they can consume up
                        to 3,000 pounds (1360 kg) of food per day

Behavior:       Breaching (jumping out of the water), or                             slapping the surface

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Whale Watching

This was my first time whale watching, and I really enjoyed it! Whales are my favorite animal which made this trip extra special. I got some reasonably good photos to share with everyone from the trip.

Catherine Zhang -- Whale Watch day!

          I don’t really remember my last whale watch in Cape Cod, but this time of whale watch outside the Boston Harbor, it gave me a fantastic feeling and I learned a lot of things.
           The date was Friday, August 1st, the time was about 11. The weather was nice, sunny and windy with fresh sea breeze. The tide at that time was low. As we were in the ocean outside the harbor, we witnessed the power and beauty of the ocean.
            At first, we went next to the dock where we fed the striped basses with onion bread. When we were there for the first time and threw bread into the water, there were more than 5 striped basses in the water chasing the bread. But this time, there was only one striped bass in the water. Then the whole class started to have a debate about why the striped basses were gone after two weeks? We came up several reasons. First, it can be the weather which affects the water temperature. Last time the weather was a little bit chilly, and last Friday it was so hot. The surface of water was kind of hot so that all the fish prefer to stay on the bottom of the harbor. Also the heat in the water may decrease the dissolved oxygen rate and fishes don’t want to stay on the top. The reason can also be the food change that last time; professor fed the fish with onion bread. Maybe it is the greasy and tasty flavor attack the fish to come up for food. This time, the food is just hot dog bread. Also the water flow direction may affect which way they go. But I think they are big enough to not be affect by the water flow.
            As we walked around, sometimes under the dock or on the post under the water, there was small amount of bright-colored red tunicate stock on there. I learned some interesting things that tunicates are animals that they usually flow with the water wave. When they are smashed on any surface, they will then stick on the surface and start to reproduce to spread the whole place. 

            Then we finally got on the whale watch ship to see whales. At first, the ship was playing the soundtrack of whales, which sound like people yelling, crying, screaming with super low voice, and I consider that is very cute. Think it took us almost an hour to get the whale watch location, Stellwagen Bank. There is a girl on the ship telling us the information about whales. She said what we would see that day is humpback whales. Whales eat krill or other smaller fish who gather up all the time to live. They usually use the “Bubble Net Feeding” strategy to catch fish or krill. By using bubble to scare fish or krill to get close to each other so that the whales can swallow a lot once at a time. They don’t have teeth, so every time they swallow a tons of food, they filter the sea water within the food and push it out of their body and push the food down to the body. Humpback whales use to feed on their prey during summer and immigrate to the tropical or subtropical ocean to reproduce. I think we just saw same two humpback whale several times, which are North Star and Hippocampus because they have similar shapes of things on their tails. I realized that the humpback whales came out of the water for 10 second as its blowhole blows out water and then they slowly dived into the water with their beautiful tails. Then they are gone as they dive all the way deep to the ocean and come back up again after 3 to 5 minutes. My favorite things are its tail and the footprints the humpback whale left as it dived into the water. I watched the humpback whale slowly getting into the water and swinging up its black tail with white on the back, and then there was a special water area appeared. First I thought it was the oil from the whale flowing on the water. I kind of understand it is caused by the tail which pushes water up. After searching it online, I quote the introduction of footprint that “When a whale dives it makes mighty up and down thrusts with its tail. This causes the water pushed by the tail to well up to the surface forming slick spots known as whale footprints. Sometimes a series of footprints marks the path the whale is taking underwater.”(New England Seabirds: humpback whale). And I also love to see when they blow huge amount of water in the air from their blowhole. 

            Another thing is that I finally have a supported conclusion about where the pieces of broken blue mussels come from. I remember that time when I went to Fanpier and found a lot of fractured blue mussels and I was surprised to know that sea gulls dropped them there so that they can break the shell and eat the mussels. But I always wanted to see how they do that. So when professor was talking to the whole class about our plan, I noticed there was one sea gull flied out of water and climbed up really fast, and there was something black on its beak, and when it was high above the dock, it dropped the thing, and I gasped (Sorry professor, I didn’t fully pay attention when you were talking…I am probably an awful student, or a mother or a grandmother in the future as you said…). Then I realized that was probably a blue mussel. It dropped on the dock and cracked open, so the seagull can easily take out and eat the mussel meat. 

            Anyway, it was an amazing whale watch trip day. I have incredible feeling about these huge, intelligent creatures. 

Whale Watching!

On Friday 08/01/14, the class went whale watching as our last field trip.  Before the boat took off everyone was very excited for the trip ahead, but then... the boat started moving.  Unfortunately, then not everyone was not so happy.  Sea sickness decided to make its way into some on our classmates, and our TA.  But, it was all worth it, when we got to the whale watching site we were very informed by our guide that we were about to see Humpback Whales.  We saw two Humpbacks, North Star and Hippocampus, they are identified by the marks on their tails.

They weren't very active because they were diving down for food.  They dive and stay without breathing for about 4-5minutes at a time to collect their food like plankton and krill.  They were very focused on gathering food because when mating season comes around, they travel south to the golf, where there isn't much food to eat.  Over all, although they whale weren't very active, they were still an amazing site to see.

we started at snails and ended with whales...

Regardless of where the whale watch boat docks, the destination is Stellwagen Bank, a 126 mile  Marine Sanctuary that spans from north of Provincetown to east of Cape Ann. Due to the shallow waters here, this area hosts many species including some we have seen; like striped bass and flounder, and some we haven't; like bluefin tuna and spiny dogfish. On the surface of the Bank however there are two species that are more common to see...humans and whales.

My first what watch was in the late 70's, departing from Provincetown, amidst the cheers and boycotts of the champions of Greenpeace, who were there at the docks with their posters highlighting the horrors of whaling. With those images in my mind, I boarded the boat, unsure of what I was embarking on, only to spend an afternoon witnessing the breaching, lob-tailing, flippering and spouting of Salt, a then 35 year younger whale, and her calves. I was awestruck...but it was the 70's so there were no camera phones, no digital media...just a shoddy video on the way out, and the memories you etched into your mind. (below are photos that I tried to take in 1977 with a kodak instant camera!)

Pan forward to 2014, where digital media, a ginormous catamaran and a group of rowdy adults are about to motor out to those same banks as I did 35 years ago, and the results were the same. I still found myself standing at the bow, scanning the horizon for spouts, and rushing from side to side to witness the grace that humpback whales exhibit as we watch.

Humpback whales, one of five species spotted at the Banks, are identified by markings on their tails. The two that surfaced in our presence last Friday were North Star and Hippocampus. Although they were not breaching or showing off, they were incredibly active in their hunt for food. Diving for 3-5 minute stretches, and challenging the captain to keep them in his sights, they came up together often and separately a time or two during our time on the Bank.

Humpback whales feed on plankton, krill, and small fish, usually found close to the ocean floor. Generally when you see the fluke come out of the water, in preparation for a dive, they are heading to the floor to search for food. These whales are often found on coastlines from New England in the summer to the equator in the winter. Although they are only nursed for the first year of their lives, they do not reach full adulthood for at least 10 at which point they can grow to between 40 and 50 feet long and weigh up to 48 TONS!!

Just a quick fun fact before I leave you with a photo that I took at a whale watch the weekend prior to the one for class...whales, unlike humans, do not breathe involuntarily, it is a choice. The fact that they choose to breathe has caused speculation about how they they just choose not to breathe or do they shut off their brain???

Sources: My childhood. the lovely ladies that were our hosts on the boat, National Geographic and Animal Planet :-)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

My first whale watch was fun, but interesting the boat ride was long and on the way I found out what it was like to get sea sick.  I noticed that the water got greener the further we got out  to sea or out side Boston harbor, into the Mass bay. The young ladies aboard the boat explained the water was green  because of the algae in the water.  The young ladies said the we would be stopping where the whale usually feed around this time of the year. She went on explaining what kind of whales are usually spotted in and around this area. Humpback, Finback, Minke and Pilot whales she explained about the sex of the whales,that their was no way to identify the sex of the whales, just that if they see a baby, it was a sure thing that there was a female around since they care for the babies.
The whales we saw Friday where both males, one was called Northstar and Hippocampus.

photo courtesy credit CPE
And they where both humpback whales. She explained that humpback whales are baleen, which mean they fitter their food through baleen plates. Whales eat crustaceans, like krill, anchovies, mackerel.The larger humpback whale had a huge scare on it's back, I believe she said it was from a boating accident that was healing well. I found out that we could spot where a whales was by looking for a cloud of mist coming from the water,being blown from the hole in the whales head, which is called the blowhole. I asked the tour guide when she came around asking if we had any questioning, what where the white spots on the whales skin and tail she told me they where barnacles. Which I thought only grew on clams, rocks,and other things that didn't move fast. I got too see and hold a whale vertebrae abroad  on the trip also. Overall the experience was life changing, I felt again I had learn something new and was glad to share my experience with my family.
photo courtesy credit CPE

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Whale Watch.... The Unexpected Experience


Hello All!

I woke up on Friday extremely excited about the whale watch field trip as I had never experienced one and I had always wanted to see a whale up and close. Unfortunately, the trip was not as I expected it to be but the end result made it unforgettable.

Everything started when we boarded the Catamaran. This boat was definitely much faster than all the other boats we have boarded in the past (pictures above). The weather was pleasant, but the wind did not help the boat ride. As we started to go deep into the ocean, the boat was going against the tide and current and the movements of the boat caused me to get seasick. Lets just say the feeling during our ride to meet the whales was not enjoyable. I tried to pay attention to our surroundings and the tour lady who was talking about the whales and where we were, but unfortunately I was not able to give my full attention due to the circumstances. Here is what I was able to learn and observe:

The whales migrate to the Boston area during the summer and they locate themselves in one of the most unique parts of the ocean called the Stellwagen Bank Marine Sanctuary. The water around the sanctuary is greener than all the other surrounding ocean areas as there is greater amount of vegetation in the bottom of it.

All the whales we saw were Humpback whales. Sometimes they would emerge together, while at other times they would emerge separately. One of the whale's name was North Star. The tour lady announcing and teaching us about them mentioned a couple of  other names as they have identify them to learn about each and follow their lives as the years go by. 

I learn that when the whale goes down into the ocean and its tail is shown (pictures below), they are diving to obtain food. They stay submerge for about 3 to 4 minutes and then they come back up. 


This beautiful specie can grow to about 50 feet and they can weight about 35 to 40 tons per what I was able to learn. I also observed that the whales I saw were black and had some white on them, which are characteristics that identify them. Moreover, their tails are also used to identify them as they can have different marks and color distinctions. 

Another interesting fact that I learn was that this whales make "footprints". This prints have a circular form and one can notice the difference on the "texture" of the water which help us located them when they are underwater.

The trip back was much more pleasant as the boat was going with the current and the ginger candy that Professor Berman gave to those who were not feeling well helped a lot. Even though the experience was not what I was expecting, but then again life is full of surprises, the trip in general was worth it. I was able learn about these creatures and observe their temporary habitat in a manner where Discovery Channel can not teach.

Well my friends I hope everyone has a a great rest of the week and I will see you all on Friday.

Daniela Baeza-Prepetit

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Playing Peek-a-boo with...Northstar & Hippocampus! Whale Watch

1, 2, 3, red light...nope its the BHC's catamaran style boat used for, Whale Watching...welcome aboard!

Now how could I have enrolled in a course titled:  Snails to Whales without coming to full circle of getting a look at a whale too, not happening!

As I kept my eyes gazed over the open waters, and ears akin to antenna for the whale sighting last a pair of humpback emerge.  Unfortunately, the pair affectionately named, Hippo campus & North star did not emerge together in my frame.  

Arent the people aboard that tiny boat a tad bit scared?  Nope, I guess not, since they made no attempt to move out of the dynamic duo's way, just went on business as usual.

So, then here is Hippo campus :)!

On location I was shown a young whales vertebrae which is akin to a cut of meat that I enjoy eating from the ox's tail, called "oxtail".

oxtail bone

Lastly, my final picture during our whale watch field trip that I will say so long to North star.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Whale watching!

Hello everyone!  I had so much fun today! I thought I would share the photos I was able to get from today's whalewatch! Ok, actually, I video taped everything and then did screen shots of the video and then cropped those shots....but they are still pretty nice :)

This one below is actually a picture of the whale's mouth as he is upside down!!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Assigment 1

Hi, Chris here.


Observe the direction the water drains in the Northern Hemisphere

Location of Observation:  Bottom Floor, Ladies Room, BU MET Building 755 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA

Time/Date of Observation:  800 PM, 11 July 2014

Situation:   1. The drain was blocked with a Student’s hand.

       2. The sink was filled with water to approximately 1/4 of it's capacity.

       3. When Observers/Students were ready-The Student's hand was removed to let the water drain naturally down the drain.

Observations:  To this Student, the water drained in a clockwise direction down the drain.

Question:  Does water drain in the same direction in the Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere or dose it drain in different directions, i.e. clockwise-counterclockwise?

Answer: According to my research water can drain in both clockwise and counter clockwise directions in both Hemisphere.

1. The Library of Congress website:

2. Salzsieder, John C. Exposing the bathtub Coriolis myth. The Physics Teacher, V. 32, Feb. 1994, v32: p107.
3. The great plughole debate.
Does water really swirl in the opposite direction south of the equator? Well, yes and no, finds David Adam. 

David Adam
The Guardian,

Assignment 1, Part 2: Lovell's Island

After all the fish were caught, Captain Charlie Dropped us off on Lovell Island for an exploratory walk among the tidal pools. We observed a variety of life hidden among the rocks in the tide pools including common periwinkles, invasive asian shore crabs, barnacles, and hermit crabs.

The Common Periwinkle Littorina littorea, is a small marine snail that can be found along the East Coast from Nova Scotia to Maryland. The L. littorea originated in Europe but was introduced to the East Coast in the 1800’s and are thought to have made the journey from Western Europe attached to rocks used as ballast in ships coming across the Atlantic. Periwinkles have a stout spiral shell, usually in various shades of gray and can grow up to around 1.5 inches. Periwinkles can be found along the shore on rocks or some muddy bottoms, making them an easy target for shore birds which are their primary predator.

The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. "Periwinkle." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 30 July 2014.

"Periwinkle." Eat The Invaders RSS. N.p., 28 June 2012. Web. 30 July 2014.

Praying Mantis

Invasive Asian Shore Crab Hemigrapsus sanguineus is a small species of crab that is indigenous to the pacific coast of Asia. It was first observed on the east coast of the United State in the late 1900s and is now found along the coast from the Carolinas to Maine. Similarly to the Periwinkles, the Asian shore crab is thought to have made its way to the east coast via the ballast of ships. The crab is found along intertidal zones, and can easily be spotted collecting under rocks. The crabs are a direct competitor for food for native crab species and leading to the decline of many.

Benson, Amy. "Asian Shore Crab." Asian Shore Crab. U.S. Geological Survey, 11 July 2013. Web. 30 July 2014.

Down Under Barnacle Elminius modestus is an invasive crustacean that originates from Australia and New Zealand, making its way across the globe by attaching to the hulls of ships. It was introduced to Europe and is anticipated to appear along the east coast. Barnacles are made up of calcareous plates that surround the soft parts that are cemented down to rocks, a host species, dock pilings, or the hulls of ships. Barnacles trap their microscopic food via feathery organs called cirri.

"Barnacle (crustacean)." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, 10 Mar. 2014. Web. 30 July 2014.

"Issg Database: Ecology of Elminius Modestus." Issg Database: Ecology of Elminius Modestus. Global Invasive Species Database, 8 June 2010. Web. 30 July 2014.

Hermit Crabs have no shell of their own, but rather use the empty shells of other crustaceans such as the periwinkle, and must transfer to larger shells as they grow. The availability of empty shells can create competition amongst the hermit crabs.

Encyclopædia Britannica. "Hermit Crab (crustacean)."Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 30 July 2014