Saturday's forecast and predicted wave heights were the best we were going to get for awhile but would it be good enough to carry out our survey effort? On Friday morning we made the decision to go for it and by 1 pm the truck was loaded and we were on our way from Boston to Bar Harbor, ME. Despite a slight increase in wind and waves on the Saturday morning forecast we decided to at least poke our heads out at 4:30 am. The land temperature was in the teens and there was several inches of snow on the ground. The boat's crew helped our team of six and a cadre of local volunteers load our gear and ourselves onto the snowy deck and into the cabin before heading offshore through a low cloud of sea smoke hovering above the water. By 7 am we had reached our survey area and there was just enough light to begin looking for telltale whale blows. The air temp was a balmy 25 degrees, and we decided to rotate our watch every 30 minutes to keep warm and alert. Even just 30 minutes on the top deck exposed to the full brunt of the wind on a vessel travelling 10-14 knots was bitterly cold, the wind chill was in the teens and in the frostbite zone on the windchill index.
But the second shortest day of the year proved to be just a little too short. Just at dusk we spotted three right whales, one of them breaching repeatedly. We adjusted our cameras to try an squeeze a little more light out of the day, but by the time we were able to get close enough to photograph, it was just too dark. We could still see the animal breaching through night vision goggles. However, we were left with a beautiful image in our mind's eye of a breaching right whale set against a back drop of the last tendrils of light from a beautiful sunset.