Saturday, March 12, 2005

1986 First sighting of Tusk01 7/1/86 #1

It was a perfect day: calm, clear, a slight breeze the air temperature 73º. The water was still a cold 55º but that is the Gulf of Maine for you, it rarely gets above the low 60's. The cold temperature contributes to the richness of life in the Gulf of Maine, since cold water holds more oxygen allowing the food chain to flourish.

As we crossed the deeper water of Jeffrey's Basin we came upon large groups of Atlantic Whitesided Dolphin. Clumps would break off the larger group and race along, wheeling around us. There were very small ones hugging tight to the side of large adults (their moms). As we travelled along more and more came close to the boat, swooping in from right angles and bowriding. Some would turn on their sides and look right up at us, some would weave back and forth around each other jockeying for the position where the pressure wave had the greatest effect, at times slapping their tails without losing any ground. We were going close to 18 knots, fast for our loaded and solid old boat.... but whenever they chose they could accelerate and leave us in their wake.
86 7-11 AWD05 86 8-5 AWD13

These dolphin were headed in the same general direction we were and when we came upon our first humpback Flask (a mature female with a white fluke), the dolphins were running energetic circles around us and Flask. We were seeing lots of evidence of plankton and fish on the fish sonar. Sometimes the filter feeding whales would be eating the plankton or small easily filtered critters like sandlance or herring in the company of larger fish and the dolphin would be feeding on the larger fish. If the seas were calm you could see all these different critters flitting to the surface to escape predators from below only to be a the mercy of seabirds from above.

As we neared Jeffrey's ledge we could see at least 6 humpbacks in pairs. From their dive patterns it looked like they were feeding and perhaps had paired off to feed cooperatively. We drifted close to this pair
86 7-1Tusk02
The whale on the right would bunch up its tail ready for a deep dive but then slip under without ever showing his fluke. We watched them through 4 dive cycles where they would be down for 2-3 minutes, come up and blow one or two times then dive again. Some people thought they saw either a line (rope) or a white scar on its tail stock and we worried it might be entangled, though we never confirmed it. The other fluked each of the 4 time and when I got hope I checked my whale catalogue and found out it was Tusk.

They were always very close together, so close that at one point they bumped each other as the switched sides, one diving over the top of the other.
86 7-1 Tusk01
Originally uploaded by yeimaya.

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