#4 A Day Of Firsts

Eg# 3660 surfacing in calm water in Grand Manan Channel

Monday was my first day of fieldwork with the right whale project. Until then I had never been around animals as large as these giants. Rather, much of my fieldwork experience came from studying the acoustic behavior of killer whales in the San Juan Islands, Washington for my Masters degree, and conducting passive acoustic marine mammal surveys fifty miles offshore of North Carolina. I have come to the Lubec field research team as a PhD student from Penn State University, interested in studying the effects of ship noise on right whale behavior, hoping to learn as much as I can from the other researchers during this field season, and eager to help them with data collection and processing.

Jenny on watch on the bow of the R/V Neried

Our first day on the water began promisingly! As I was standing on the bow sprit gazing out at glassy blue-black water and trying to remember all of the things I had just learned about marine mammal surveying in the Bay of Fundy, I saw a smooth, slender, dark form break the calm surface and rise tall, with a forked tip. My thoughts registered this foreign shape as a right whale fluke, and I cautiously gave the right whale symbol to the crew, aware that it was unusual to see right whales so near the harbor. No doubt the crew assumed it was a humpback whale and that my amateur eyes were overly eager to spot right whales. I certainly second-guessed myself too, during the ten minutes we waited for it to resurface from its dive. But, upon surfacing we all cheered when we saw the characteristic callosity pattern atop the rostrum, confirmation this was indeed a right whale!

Our day continued in much the same way—flat waters and abundant wildlife. And though we saw no more right whales, we saw many other creatures I had only read about or seen on television: breaching humpback whales, basking sharks, fin whales, and a mola mola. My experiences doing fieldwork off the coasts of Washington and North Carolina had offered many other surprises, but never these sights. What a beautiful place the Bay of Fundy is--I look forward to discovering more about what it offers!


1 comment:

  1. Oh how very lucky and fortunate you are to be able to watch and research these beautiful creatures. I love all animals, but to watch a whale is an amazing experience. May be in my next life I will do this too.