#10: "Resolution" in the Bay

This morning was another quiet one as the fog rolled in from the Bay of Fundy to form a solid gray blanket over the town of Lubec, Maine. This kind of weather sure makes getting up at 5:00 a.m. difficult, but with two days on land we were all itching to get back to sea. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate, so again we find ourselves on land.

Photograph taken by Jessica Taylor of Resolution swimming next to his mother (Catspaw) moments after the birthing event on New Years Day, 2005.

However, the days on land give us the opportunity to get to work on processing all the data we've collected. From the two and a half days we've worked in the Bay of Fundy we already have over 1300 photographs of right whales to process! The processing will take many hours because each image can hold a wealth of information and must be carefully reviewed for its content. Not only can we discover the whale's individual identification from a photograph, but also it's behavior, association with other whales, the overall body condition, the presence of new scars or wounds from human impact and much, much more. As our blog continues we hope to touch upon some of these topics in greater detail, so please stay tuned!

As we begin to process images we start to recognize or identify more and more whales. While working out on the water we often get just a few quick glimpses of a whale before it dives, so although some whales are recognized on the spot others may not be identified until the data processing phase begins. However, whether it happens on the boat or days later when looking at an image on a computer screen, it's always exciting when we identify a whale. It's often like bumping into an old friend on the street or in the grocery store.

Seeing a particular individual often conjures up memories. For instance, seeing a whale might make me remember the first time I photographed a right whale, or my first day working in the Bay of Fundy. I can remember the whale I first identified from the air (while conducting aerial surveys for right whales in their winter calving ground of the southeastern U.S.) and I can remember the first whale I matched to the North Atlantic Right Whale Catalog. So when I heard that the right whale named "Resolution" was photographed on our first day working in the Bay of Fundy this summer (August 6th), I was very excited. Why am I so excited about Resolution? Because I saw him being born! Not only that, but it was the first documented North Atlantic right whale birth!

Resolution in the Bay of Fundy on August 6, 2008. Photo taken from the research vessel Nereid by Jonathan Cunha.

Resolution (#3532) was born off the coast of Florida on January 1, 2005. On that New Year's Day morning over three years ago, I was an observer aboard a New England Aquarium aerial survey plane (from December through March we conduct aerial surveys for right whales on the calving ground off the southeast U.S.). When we first sighted his mom, Catspaw (#1632), thrashing at the surface of the water with a large amount of blood surrounding her, we thought she was badly injured. I had no idea I was about to be part of a team who would be the first and only four people to document a right whale birth! It took us a few minutes to realize what we were seeing...truth be told it was not until the small calf appeared at the surface that we realized what had just happened. Catspaw lifted the small calf to the surface with her body and soon the pair began to swim side-by-side and the remaining blood in the water dissipated. If we had arrived on the scene moments later we never would have known what had just occurred. And in case you haven't guessed it yet, he was named for a New Year's resolution.

It's exciting to know that both Resolution and Catspaw, are in the Bay of Fundy this summer, and that Catspaw is a mom again this year (healthy right whales can have a single calf every three years). Unfortunately, I was not on the water on the 6th of August (the team's first day on the water) so I missed seeing Resolution in person. But just hearing that he is in the Bay of Fundy makes me even more eager to get back out on the water so I can see him for myself!


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