June 9, 2019
Yesterday aboard the Aurora, we headed out to the latest whale hangout and found two groups of humpbacks swimming amidst about 15 to 20 seals.
We enjoyed some looks at Cajun’s calf, as the young whale played and rolled while mom took deeper dives, with Pele and Milkweed, likely to feed. We were thrilled when the group made a beeline right for the boat and dipped under us, giving one of the most thrilling close approaches you could ask for. Mostaza, Jabiru, and Ganesh’s 2014 calf were nearby, and we tried to keep up with them, but their movements were a little more widespread. However, we did get one close look at the group as they dove toward us.
When they did, a bright white stripe could be seen on Mostaza’s tail. Upon closer review of both my and a passenger’s photos, we realized it was some type of rope. I immediately contacted the Marine Animal Entanglement Response team (800-900-3622, can be used by naturalists, fishing crews, and recreational ocean goers alike!), and Captain Chip hailed the other whale watch boats to stay with her until help arrived. As it turned out, the 11 a.m. trip was with her shortly after we had left, and Kelsey did not observe rope in any of her photos. So Mostaza was lucky and shed whatever gear was on her very quickly. A close call for sure, and, unfortunately, likely a first of many reports to come. It’s also important to remember that a small percentage of entanglements are reported as many, many animals become entangled without being detected, highlighting the need to work toward prevention rather than focusing solely on rescue.
Even having heard that she was likely free of gear, it was comforting to be able to go out and see Mostaza again during the afternoon trip.
The two group dynamics remained the same, but this time Cajun’s calf was significantly more surface active with almost nonstop breaching combined with rolling, flipper slapping, and tail breaching.
Passengers were once again delighted by the many seals to spot both near and far, and there was even a basking shark, leaving us with overwhelming decisions as to which direction to look!
Mostaza caught our attention again as she began lobtailing rapidly before going fairly quiet. That is, until she breached so close to the boat we felt the spray all the way up on the third deck! She also swam under the pulpits, where she briefly raised her flipper upon reaching the other side.
It was a memorable day for sure and hopefully inspired passengers for weeks and months to come.
– Laura L., Lizzy, and Mairead