#8: The Right Whales of Our First Offshore Trip

In the previous blog, Monica did a great job of summarizing our first offshore trip in brief day-by-day segments; we were able to call the Lubec field station at the end of every day using a satellite phone with a report of how the day went and what we saw. We were not fortunate enough provide our team members back on land with tales of countless right whales—surprisingly, we had only four right whales over our six day survey in areas where there have been plenty of right whales in past years! Despite the shortage of whale sightings, the trip went even smoother than we dreamed. Most days, we had light winds, calm seas, and no fog. Our Captain Joe, familiar with the seas we were surveying, was amazed that the conditions were so favorable. It felt a bit like Mother Earth sent us a block of nice weather to cushion the blow of such few whales.

Finally getting to work some whales on the 
Shelagh! Photo: Marianna Hagbloom

Our big day of sightings was August 17, when we found three right whales around the southwest corner of our Roseway Basin survey box. Two of the whales were in a Surface Active Group (SAG), where Derecha (Catalog #2360) was the focal female with SOS (#2135) giving her much attention.

Derecha lifts her head while being active in the SAG. Photo: Kelsey Howe

SOS chases after Derecha in the SAG. Photo: Marianna Hagbloom

Another whale, Van Halen (#1146) was milling around, and when Derecha and SOS weren't in a SAG together, all three whales were moving erratically- so much so that we thought there were more than just the three whales!

Van Halen surfaces, showing his peduncle scars. Photo: Kelsey Howe

On August 19, we came across our fourth right whale, Dropcloth (#1271). He was to the northeast of where we had whales on the 17th, and seemed to be travelling in an easterly direction.

Dropcloth heading east. Photo: Amy Knowlton

All four whales seen on this trip were old-timers. SOS was born in 1991, making him 22 years old, and Derecha was first seen in 1993, making her at least 20 years old. Even older are Dropcloth, first sighted in 1978, and Van Halen, first sighted in 1977, making them at least 35 and 36 years old respectively.

Our lack of right whales offshore was a very interesting observation, and has raised even more questions, which Philip will discuss in a future post. And while we didn't see many whales, we did see some other cool species which we'll be sharing with you in a follow-up blog!



  1. Love the blog posts and updates about the Whale House, guys! Keep 'em coming and good luck up there.

  2. This is terrific stuff. I've been on the Bay several times and can so relate. I love the pictures and links. Please keep them coming and know I'll be watching. NW in Florida