We were thrilled to spot our first pair of right whales around 8:20 AM on Sunday. Not long after, we noticed many blows grouped together on the horizon, which could only mean one thing: Surface Active Group (SAG)! The SAG was centered around a mom, Catalog #3130, while her calf remained on the outskirts. The dynamic of the SAG was interesting- there were long breaks in between the activity, and the whales would scatter while #3130 would reunite with her calf. There were whales everywhere we looked, in all different directions and distances. We estimated more than 30 different whales were aggregated in less than one square nautical mile. I wondered- is this what the North Atlantic looked like before whale populations took a toll from commercial whaling?
When we felt we had photographed all the individuals in the SAG (not an easy feat for the photographers nor whale watcher!), we moved on to smaller SAGs in the distance. By the end of the day, we had documented nearly 60 different right whales in a relatively small area of the Bay.
Heading across the Grand Manan channel on the following morning (Monday), the observers on the bow of the Nereid caught a glimpse of a whale. Surely it wasn't a right whale... was it? The Grand Manan channel is not a habitat often used by right whales. So we were surprised when we found not one, but three right whales in the area! As we documented the whales, we noticed two vessels heading in outbound, south down the Channel. Since the presence of right whales is unusual in this area, we called Fundy Traffic to notify them of the whales located outside of their critical habitat area, and they in turn notified the ships to steer clear of the whales. The vessel operators responded by steering well west of the whales.
A vessel steering well clear of a right whale in the Grand Manan channel. Photo: Allison Henry
We continued into the Bay, and had another extraordinary day filled with a large SAG of about 20 whales, followed by some other smaller SAGs. One exciting sighting was of a familiar face: Calvin (#2223)! Calvin was born in 1992 to a whale named Delilah. During their first summer in the Bay of Fundy, Calvin was orphaned when Delilah was struck and killed by a ship. Calvin's story is amazing because not only did she survive without her mother, but she also endured a fishing gear entanglement in 2000 (and was disentangled in 2001), and has now gone on to bear calves of her own. She, along with some of our other "famous" whales, are featured on our sponsorship page, and by making a donation to the Right Whale Research Program, you directly help fund our research and conservation efforts.
Calvin, taking a break from all the socializing in the Bay! Photo: Kelsey Howe
Now: off to process all this data we collected!