#4: First Day on the Water!

After our office was all set up and we had completed most of our on-land training, the weather finally improved and we headed out to sea on Friday. Even though I have been doing this work for 29 years, I am still astounded by how much equipment and gear we take each day!

Sam, Molly, and Brigid waiting for the R/V Nereid to dock so we can load our gear and equipment for the day.

The first day at sea each year is always particularly exciting as we have no idea what we might see. It was a beautiful day with calm seas and clear skies. An hour into the survey, we had our first large whale sighting near Grand Manan island-  a minke whale lunging through the water and surfing in our wake. Little is known about these small (30 feet), enigmatic whales and it was a great way to start the day.

We found no right whales that day, but had some interesting sightings of other animals throughout the day including a fin whale, 3 humpback whales, a large basking shark, and great looks at an ocean sunfish (Mola mola). This odd animal came close enough that we were able to plunge our Nikon CoolPix into the water and get the video below:

This is what the scene looked like from above water!

Observing the mola. Photo: Sam Emmert

While out in the Bay, we talked with our colleagues from the Grand Manan Whale and Seabird Research Station who did a plankton tow recently and they reported very little plankton in the water column. No plankton means no right whales. But conditions can change quickly out there, so we are hoping the plankton resource will improve and right whales will come into the Bay soon.

As we approached shore at the end of the day, we received a report from our colleagues at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center that they had seen 25 right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence- the first aggregation of right whales reported since they left Cape Cod Bay in May!

It is a dynamic ocean and conditions are frequently changing. Soon, our team will split up and begin the search for right whales in different areas than BOF. Although sad to see our colleagues go, we are all excited to see what they will find.


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