#5: How Many Miles?

How many miles of trackline does it take to find a right whale?  Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, right?  Unfortunately, it’s actually how some of us are starting to feel up here at our field station in Lubec, ME. Okay, to be honest, we have been out in the Bay of Fundy only three days so far this season, but we are anxious to find right whales. The reality is that we are working and surveying long, hard hours, and collecting amazing and important data. Data collected that shows the absence of whales in a habitat is just as important as data that shows the presence of whales (even if it makes our days a little less exciting).

So far this season, we have logged 325 nautical miles (374 statute miles) and 27 survey hours. That’s approximately the distance between Boston, MA and Baltimore, MD! It has taken us three survey days but we feel good and confident in the coverage that we have given the Bay of Fundy in that time. Check out this map of our three day survey effort:

Map of R/V Nereid's three days of survey effort in the Bay of Fundy 
(map by Brooke Wikgren, GIS specialist)

Our last day out last week (August 7) was a great day. We had amazing weather, great visibility and we felt really good about our extensive tracklines (the green track) on the eastern side of the Bay of Fundy. At one point we came across a small pod of about 25 of Atlantic white-sided dolphins (see the little blip in lower left of the green trackline) that included three mom/calf pairs! It was a nice break from our long survey day to spend a little time in the presence of such quick and agile mammals. It certainly felt like a reward for our hard work and survey effort.

A mom and calf Atlantic white-sided dolphin swim side by side in the Bay of 
Fundy on August 7th. Photo: Philip Hamilton

Beautiful markings on the sleek body of the Atlantic white-sided dolphin!
Photo: Amy Knowlton

We are excited for this coming week. Hopefully we will get some good weather and will be able to continue surveys for right whales. Additionally, we are currently prepping for our extended offshore work beyond the Bay of Fundy. Be sure to stay tuned to see what our offshore team might find in other Canadian habitats.



  1. A great blog, Monica! Good luck to everyone in Lubec this season. Can't wait to read more posts.

  2. These white-sided dolphins are so beautiful! We regularly spot white-beaked dolphins here in Reykjavík, they are lovely as well. All dolphins and whales are :)

  3. Yes, white-sides are beautiful as are white-beaked. Last year we had a great sighting of white-beaked dolphins in the Bay of Fundy. Have you seen any right whales up off Reykjavik? There are a couple whales in the catalog that are known to pop up every now and then in the waters around Iceland. In 2003 I was lucky enough to be part of a right whale survey to the Cape Farewell Grounds. We sailed on a Canadian research vessel named Sedna IV and departed from Reykjavik harbor. We found one right whale on our three week survey. I would love to get to that area again someday for more right whale survey effort.