Right whales, great friends, and…pirates?

This has been a great past few days and for two very different reasons!

Thursday started out like any marginal boat day: getting up early and looking at the weather, then looking at it every 15 minutes to see if it has changed or not, for better or worse. We had just made the decision not to go when Marianna came dancing (quite literally) into the kitchen. The folks from Grand Manan Whale and Seabird Research Station had called on the radio and were out in the Bay with a potential mother/calf right whale pair! Just to brag a bit, from the time we got the call until we were on scene was only about an hour and 15 minutes. We were on our GAME. And obviously more than a little excited to finally have an opportunity to do what we came for: tag a right whale mom or calf.

When we got there we expected just a mom/calf pair. What we found instead were 5-8 right whales all in the same area, even grouped up together at times. We saw the animal the GMWSRS team said could be a calf, and although it was a bit bigger than the calves usually are around here, it was definitely a young animal. The pretty big swell we were in was making it very difficult to even see all of the whales around, so we knew we needed to really act fast in order to get a tag on. We really were on our game. We got our tag on and the placement was perfect. Not that we expect much less from Alex of course. No sooner did we get our tag on though did the whales dive, and were gone.

collage of whale being tagged
Still shot pulled from the GoPro of our successful tagging. Photos: Alex Loer

That’s the problem with whales. They can disappear. I have mentioned this before, and I will say it again for those disbelievers, it is so easy to lose a whale. And that swell we were in? Oh that does not help, not at all. We had all of our tracking equipment out and were getting hits from our dear tag (it was of course Scoby), however if we were in the bottom of the swell we were obscured from the transmitter on the tag and it was difficult to get a “hit”. We equipped the Nereid with our other set of tracking gear and had Heather Koopman and Andrew Westgate from GMWSRS keep an ear out on their equipment too just for good measure. Turns out Andrew, one of their senior scientists, is not only very VERY good at tracking, he LOVES it. Guess who found it first…it is always nice to have great friends that are willing to help out in the name of science. First round is on us guys.

To add to our good mood and high spirits, yesterday was the annual “Pirate Invasion” where the town of Eastport “invades” Lubec. In other words, everyone from both towns dresses up as pirates and those from Eastport head over by boat, motorcycle, and sea plane where we attempt to fend them off with water guns and water balloons. We inevitably fail, and then there are festivities to be shared by both Lubecers and Eastporteans alike. Being such a windy day, we were on land for it again this year and were able to partake.

team members posing while dressed as pirates
Me, Kelsey, Liz, Grace, and Dan dressed in our finest pirate garb!

We won’t be out tomorrow, but Tuesday looks promising. Hopefully the whales have stuck around! Until then, insert cliche, cheesy pirate goodbye here – something using the words “arr”, “matey”, and “Davey Jones’ locker”.