The crew quickly went to work, gear stowed, computer hooked up and observers posted on the bow as the Nereid headed across the Grand Manan Channel with a rolling ground swell and the uncertainty of the day ahead of us. We had the next 12 hours and 90 miles to remain sharp, on watch and vigilant in our efforts to document right whale presence or absence in this area.
The morning was atypically warm for September and the windshield of the Nereid fogged as we passed the warm air mass flowing off the island of Grand Manan. Trackline one was to the east and along the edge of the shipping lane. We saw no ships and an equal number of right whales. By trackline two the crew was well into second breakfast, or was it first lunch? Sightings of harbor porpoise and Molas (ocean sunfish) kept us sharp. Soon an odd shape lay at the surface but the difficult light conditions had the observers straining to determine what it was, debris, a log, trash...
The unexpected sighting was that of a leatherback sea turtle! The leatherback turtle is the largest of all sea turtles species and is a known jelly (jellyfish) feeder. While it's common for leatherbacks to be seen off the coast of New England and Nova Scotia, they are uncommon in the waters of the Bay of Fundy. Needless to say the sighting was different, exciting, and caused much talk among us. After a few photos it was time to get back to work and back on track.
|A Leatherback sea turtle resting at the surface. Photo Credit: New England Aquarium/Molly McEntee|
The excitement was electric, of the six researchers aboard only three of us had the opportunity last year to see a killer whale on our last day of the season. Johanna quickly noticed a small notch on the trailing edge of the whales enormous dorsal fin- it was Old Thom. A known orca among the whale watches and researchers of the Bay of Fundy, Old Thom is more like a legend, a name you know but a figure you may wait years to see.
|Killer whale Old Thom is recognizable by the small nick in the trailing edge of hid dorsal fin. Photo Credit: Johanna Anderson|
|When we arrived Old Thom was flipper slapping. Photo Credit: New England Aquarium/ Dan Pendleton|
|Thom quickly became interested in the R/V Nereid. Photo Credit: New England Aquarium Dan Pendleton|