A rolling, flipper slapping humpack. Photo: Kelsey Howe
Nearing sunset, our observers spotted several playful humpback whales, and since we hadn't seen much action all day we steered the Shelagh towards them. We all had a blast photographing and watching them as they flipper slapped, lobtailed and interacted with each other. With flukes under the rising moon and sinking sun, it was a picturesque way to end our survey for the day.
One playful humpback! Photo: Kelsey Howe
We continued transiting towards Yarmouth- this destination was an important one because an AIS specialist lived there and our boat's AIS wasn't working properly. We tied up at the Yarmouth dock around 3:30 AM on Monday.
The Shelagh tied up in Yarmouth.
Once our AIS had been tinkered with and operating correctly, it was the weather that kept us ashore. We made the most of our time by doing boat chores and exploring downtown Yarmouth, which many of us were visiting for the first time.
Captain Joe reconfigures our AIS wiring while modeling our stylish Right Whale shirt!
We had high hopes as we left the Yarmouth dock on Wednesday morning, as the forecast was calling for light winds in the afternoon. As it often goes though, the light winds were not very light and we had a rough time at sea with very few sightings. Large swells continued the next day and made our time on Roseway Basin uncomfortable- the motion in the ocean was not favorable to our stomachs! With increasing high winds in the forecast, we found ourselves back in port late on Thursday night- this time at Cape Sable Island. Our local friend Wanda took us grocery shopping and introduced us to Dan's Ice Cream Shoppe in Barrington Passage (their ice cream is fantastic and officially "Right Whale Researcher Approved!"). In return, we attempted to take Wanda out to look for whales close to shore on Saturday, but the seas were not favorable and we didn't stay out very long.
The buoys (pictured on the right) snuggled safely back on the boat.
At 4 AM on Monday, we departed Cape Sable and began surveying Roseway Basin when the sun rose. Along the way, we retrieved the two hydrophone buoys that we had deployed on our first Roseway expedition. The acoustic tracks that were recorded will be analyzed for whale vocalizations, so we're all curious to learn how many right whale calls were heard!
Sawtooth at the surface. Photo: Johanna Anderson.
Our first and only right whale on Roseway Basin was seen the following day. He was visible from a couple miles away because he was repeatedly breaching. The team was thrilled to have a right whale sighting, but we all laughed as soon as he fluked- we had a sighting of "Sawtooth" (Catalog #3714), named for his memorable sawtooth fluke edge. Sawtooth had already been seen a few times by the teams in the Bay of Fundy, so while we weren't documenting a new whale for the season, it was great to document the movement between the two habitats!
Notice the "sawtooth" fluke edge. Photo: Kari Signor.
Because there was a right whale in the area, we decided to do a plankton tow to see if there were any copepods in the water- copepods make up the majority of the right whale's diet. Spooning our sample into the storage container, it looked like there were some copepods, but the experts at Dalhousie University will inspect the sample thoroughly to determine what exactly was in the water column.
Moe and Kelsey handling the plankton tow sample.
Leaving Roseway Basin and transiting across the Bay of Fundy, we would come across another right whale. Sadly, this right whale would turn out to be severely entangled in fishing line. As of yet, Catalog #3279 has not been seen again. You can read about this encounter here. While it was a depressing way to end our voyage, all in all we had a successful trip- we collected a plankton sample, retrieved both hydrophones, and surveyed the most ground we could with the weather we were given.