#18: A day on Roseway Basin

Our days on Roseway were long and action packed! Here's a log of a full day on Roseway Basin, from a Wednesday evening to a Thursday evening.

Wednesday, Sept 2

10-11:30 p.m.: On the night watch. Each crew member takes a 1.5 hour watch each night. At night we are drifting (not under power) and so I need to watch the radar to ensure that we don't drift near any other vessels. I watch the radar screen and watch out the wheelhouse windows for lights on the horizon. If a vessel comes within 3 miles of us, I will wake the Captain and he will decide whether or not we need to maneuver around the other vessel. My watch tonight is uneventful and I wake Jon at 11:30 p.m. to take the next shift. I'm glad to head to my bunk for a good night's rest!

Thursday, Sept 3

5:30 a.m.: Moe (who had the last night watch) wakes up the rest of the crew so we can get dressed, eat breakfast and be on watch by 6 a.m. Everyone is a bit tired since this is our third day at sea.

6 a.m.: Moe and I take the first watch and head to the top of the wheelhouse to look for whales. It's a beautiful day for surveying! The water is very calm and there's good visibility, so spotting blows should be easy today. It's going to be a busy day.....it's only 6:45 a.m. and we've already found our first whale!

11 a.m.:
The whales are pretty spread out today. We've surveyed for several hours and found six right whales. For many of these whales, this is the first time we've seen them during our survey of Roseway Basin. Over the past two days we covered the eastern to mid sections of the Roseway Basin Area to be Avoided (ATBA) and found a heavy concentration of whales. (Read Moe's full post about the ATBA here.) Today, we are surveying the western section of the ATBA so we can get a more complete picture of what part is being utilized.

12:20 p.m.: I'm famished! We're taking a quick lunch break to revitalize the team!

1:16 p.m.: Success! We just obtained a biopsy sample from right whale #1036! (You can search for this individual's sighting history and photos on the North Atlantic Right Whale Catalog.) This whale was first seen in Cape Cod Bay in 1970 and has never been biopsied before. #1036 has a very cryptic sighting history. After it's first sighting, it disappeared for 12 years. It was finally found again in 1982 in Roseway Basin. This whale seems to prefer offshore habitats as it is mostly seen in the Great South Channel (east of Cape Cod) and in Roseway Basin. This biopsy sample will determine whether #1036 is male or female and how it is related to others in the population!

3:30 p.m.:
After photographing a single right whale, I spotted a tall dorsal fin out of the corner of my eye. Seconds later Moe called up on the radio; "Did you guys see an orca?" We all immediately went on high alert to re-sight the lone orca. Sighting an orca in the North Atlantic is a rare occurrence. Most of us had never seen a wild orca before, so we were all very excited about this sighting! We photographed the dorsal fin and the saddle patch just behind the dorsal fin so that researchers can identify the individual.

4:45 p.m.: Throughout our survey today we have seen fin whales, sei whales, common dolphins, harbor porpoise, basking sharks and several ocean sunfish. We've also seen tuna feeding on large schools of fish.

6:30 p.m.: This is the perfect ending of our trip. For the past hour, we've watched a single right whale display head pushing. Head pushing is a behavior in which the whale lifts it's chin out of the water and then forcefully pushes it's chin back down on the water. The force creates a "bow wave" that is very impressive. Yan lowered his hydrophone into the water so we could hear the "gunshots" that accompany this behavior. A "gunshot" is a percussive sound made by right whales. At this point, we don't know what the purpose of this behavior is or how they produce the "gunshot" noise. The whales are constantly reminding us how much more we can learn about them!

7 p.m.: We have packed up our equipment and are heading back to Metaghan, Nova Scotia. Traveling at 9-11 knots, we should arrive around 2 a.m. We're all exhausted, but excited to get back to Lubec and share our findings with the rest of the right whale team!

Photo Caption:
1) Eg#1112 displaying head pushing behavior
2) Sei Whale
3) Yan with biopsy dart
4) Video: Eg#1112 displaying head pushing behavior


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