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A large marine mammal

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Large marine mammal

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Our young biologist Jack, hard at work whale watching on CLIVAR-P6.

Jack Payette

It was around dinner when someone noticed a large marine mammal. Cetaceans, which most of us know as whales and dolphins, are marine mammals that produce milk, breath air, have evolved to be very large, completely comfortable, and at home in the ocean. Most of us assumed that it was a whale, this was probably correct. In any case, it was some sort of medium sized cetacean. It appeared off the port side as the ship was sitting on station sampling. Moving close to the ship, some of the members of the science party got a very good look at it. It was almost 30 meters away from the ship according to one account, but it then moved further off. I got a glimpse of the elusive animal when it was a ways out, maybe 400 to 500 meters off the port side. It surfaced for a breath several times at approximately 2-5 minute intervals. It didn’t show its fluke (tail) as one might imagine, but simply came up for air. The most obvious or recognizable aspect of the sighting was the spray coming from its blowhole, which can be seen in one of my photos as a mist set against the blue horizon. The blowhole is the evolved nostril of the whale, which allows it to breath easily at the surface. Some of its body was visible, and appeared to be red or pink in color. Just barely visible in the photo, this was probably part of the very small dorsal fin, which could be seen after the whale got a breath. It didn’t stay very long, probably lingering in the area for a half an hour or so, curious about the ship, before setting out on the ocean again.

Last updated: December 26, 2009

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