#16 Here Comes the Bride

On August 29 in Roseway Basin, Yan and I were on watch with our eyes peeled for right whale blows. A few hours had passed and we had not come across any of our whale friends. I spotted something bobbing at the surface about a mile or so away. We decided to head in the direction of the mystery debris. Upon our approach we realized that it was a bunch of balloons.

Wedding balloons found while surveying for right whales in Roseway Basin

As we were preparing to pull them out of the water, a right whale surfaced only a few hundred feet from us! I quickly radioed down to Moe, "Whale is up, 9 o'clock!!" "What kind?" she asked. I excitedly replied "Right whale!!!" We stayed in the area and happily worked 4 whales, never loosing track of the balloons.

Yan and Candace on watch in Roseway Basin

As you can see in the photo at the top of this blog, the debris was a bunch of black and white plastic and foil balloons tied together with silver ribbon. The largest of all read "Mr. & Mrs.". I quickly scanned the horizon with my binoculars. My suspicion was right, no wedding party in sight. Where did they come from? I wondered (and still do). I always ask myself that question when I see bits of trash drifting about off shore. Once we had them on deck I punctured each one of them and put them in the trash. When I see stray balloons floating away my stomach cringes because I wonder where they'll end up. Maybe around the neck of a seal, in the stomach of a sea turtle, wrapped tightly around the beak of a bird, or maybe they'll wash up on the shore of your local sandy beach.

Balloons collected from Eastport Pirate Festival

My balloon story continues onto land. Last week was the annual Eastport/Lubec pirate invasion which includes a water balloon fight between the two sides. Automatically a few fellow right whale team members and I were picking up the colorful bits and pieces of broken balloons that littered the streets.

Sadly we could only watch as several water balloons missed their intended pirate targets and landed in the water alongside the harbor seals that play in the tidal currents just a few hundred feet off shore.

While writing this blog I began "Googling" words like balloons, animals and ocean. I found this article about marine debris quite interesting. It's incredible how much trash we pass each day we're surveying, and that's only the stuff that floats. I can't even imagine how much is under the surface.


  1. Jen Burton, Senior CalvineerSeptember 22, 2010 at 1:31 PM

    We're reading through the blogs in Calvin right now, and I came across this one. I empathize with you on the balloons. We learned in Third Grade about the impact they make on the environment. That 4th of July was a nightmare, watching all those balloons drift away with that knowledge fresh in our minds....
    But, anyway. Good luck with the whales, and maybe we'll see some of you during the following year.
    -Jen Burton

  2. We found several more balloons the other day while surveying in the Bay of Fundy - so sad. We hope to see the Calvineers as well...maybe at the Right Whale Consortium in November?

  3. Someday I hope the use of balloons - and especially the "celebratory" release of balloons - will be considered as socially unacceptable as smoking, plastic bags at the crogery store, and disposable coffee cups ....