I find it fascinating to me, how my “random” mix of posts has lead to some very interesting opportunities over the years. And, as is the case with life in general, they always pop up at the most unexpected times. Case and point: The recent post about my “up close and personal” sighting of a humpback whale on our run home from Florida this week seems to have opened yet another “door” to an opportunity that I didn’t even know existed. Let me explain…
In that post, I was trying to make the point that sometimes I loose sight, when I am underway aboard Pandora and, I suppose, in life in general, that if I stop and look, I’d realize that I have already arrived, a twist on the oft quoted and perhaps equally trite “the journey is it’s own reward”.
I wrote about an amazing interaction with a Humpback Whale near the Hudson Canyon, about 100 miles east of New York. The canyon was cut in the continental shelf about 10,000 years ago during the last ice age when sea levels were some 400 feet lower than they are today. 400′ lower? And we are worried sick about a change in sea levels of a few feet. During the last ice age, and it wasn’t the first one, all that water ended up as ice and snow that piled up over a period of thousands of years. Yikes, I’ll bet that would cause quite a run on snowblowers at Home Depot. Thinking ahead, I wonder if Al Gore has invested any of his speaking fees on Global Warming in Home Depot stock. Perhaps not as he seems pretty sure that it’s going to get a lot warmer before it begins to get colder. Canoes anyone? Anyway, I digress.
So, after I put up that post, I put a near breathless link to my blog on Facebook about my sighting. So, what happens? The next day I get a comment on my blog from someone at NOAA. No, not the “other” Noah, the “40 days and 40 nights” Ark Noah? I get a comment from someone with the Woods Hole NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. You know, the folks that brought you the Titanic, well at least photos of the Titanic?
Anyway, my first reaction when I saw the message was that I was about to get scolded for harassing cetaceans and reminding me that I should keep a safe distance. My many experiences, over the years, of being warned to stay away from naval vessels conducting exercises, has made me wary of such things. Sort of akin to receiving a dreaded letter from the IRS. “It has come to our attention…”
Fortunately, it was nothing of the sort. The correspondence was from a Nathalie (her real name) who runs a Caribbean program for tracking migration patterns of humpback whales. Sounds like a pretty good gig, if you ask me. “Sorry honey, I’ll be away on on a business trip WORKING IN THE CARIBBEAN on your birthday. I promise to make it up to you, really.” This program, which she manages, enlists the help of cruisers in keeping track of migrating humpbacks.
So, Nathalie it seems, is also a “snowbird”,sort of like me and Brenda, splitting her time between the eastern Caribbean and Woods Hole. Humpback whales travel from the Gulf of Maine to the Caribbean and back, every year. And, some of them (the whales) also take trips across the Atlantic to the Cape Verde Islands. Here’s a map of humpback migration patterns from the NOAA site. Want to read more? Click here for the full PDF. I have an idea…. “Brenda? How about we follow migrating humpback whales east too? It’s not that far, just a quick jaunt to the Cape Verde Islands. We could duplicate the migration patterns of Megaptera novaeangliae.” Brenda majored in Latin and Greek so she’ll know exactly what that means. “You know, NOAA needs us to do this. The future health of the humpback whale population may depend on it! And besides, the Cape Verdes, well they look pretty close on the map. And as you see, they aren’t far from Africa at all. Want to go to Africa too? We’d almost be there by that point. Besides, I like to eat and look at all the feeding areas. And, they have “OTHER” areas (in yellow) too. That’s always fun.” “Down boy, down boy, get a grip Bob” “Oh…” (he says dejectedly)
I cribbed this image from caribtails.org, a site managed by NOAA, supporting an organized effort, with cruisers like us, designed to track and identify individual humpbacks and to better understand their lives and travels. It seems that whales have the same travel plans as me and Brenda for this year and next. What a coincidence! “I love Maine! Brenda, let’s go there too!”
Each whale has a unique pattern of tail fluke markings that allows the identification of individuals. Who knew? NOAA’s site has a number of good resources including some tips on how to have the best experience for you and the whale as well as some suggestions on how to get good photos. Their fluke markings are as distinctive as our fingerprints. Here’s two examples from NOAA of how different they can be.
I am hoping that my photo, not taken from the best angle I now know might not be sharp enough to be identified in their database. It would be terrific if I could learn more about “my whale” and where she/he has been sighted. If he’s “new to science” perhaps they will name him “Bob” or her, “Bobbie”, Perhaps I am getting ahead of myself. “Yes, Bob, totally!” Anyway, if the photo doesn’t check out, perhaps Brenda and I will get another chance to see her/him next winter in the Caribbean.
That would be just so great and I can’t wait for another opportunity to holler “thar she blows”. And, now I know that she’s also blowing “thar and thar” as they make their way north and south with the seasons.
“Brenda, we need a new camera! We absolutely MUST be prepared!”
So, there you have it. A chance sighting of a whale on my way north this week has opened a door at NOAA. How cool is that? Perhaps I’ll get a tour. Yes, that would be fun.
You just never know where life will lead. I guess I might also get hit by a truck today. No, I’m going with this, for now instead.
Yeah, this is way better, for sure.