Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Whales in Massachusetts!

Hi Sea Fans,

I just spent a couple days with Cynde McInnis from The Whalemobile teaching kids about humpback whales! Cynde also works at Cape Ann Whale Watch in Gloucester, MA. They take passengers out to watch humpback whales on their feeding grounds in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.  A Marine Sanctuary is an area in the ocean that is protected for its cultural, natural or historical significance. In the case of Stellwagen Bank, there are more than 500 plants and animals found in the 842 square miles off the coast of Massachusetts—including 3 species of endangered whales: the humpback, fin and right whales.

Unfortunately, I was too late in the season to go whale watching, but I was lucky that I could work with Cynde and go into schools with her life-sized inflatable humpback named Nile. Did you know that if you go whale watching at Cape Ann, the naturalists will tell you the names of the whales you are seeing? They know them! The same whales come back year after year to these feeding grounds. This summer they saw Pepper, 
and Nile (to name a few). 
Humpbacks along the entire East Coast of the U.S. are given names based on the patterns on the underside of their tail. The names help the researchers remember the animals. All the researchers use the same names for the whales, so “Sockeye” in Massachusetts is also called “Sockeye” in the Caribbean or Canada.

Nile was named for the black line on the left side of her fluke that looks like the Nile River. She was seen as a calf in 1987, so we know that she is 27 years old this year, and her mother is Mars. (The baby stays with its mom for one year.) Hancock got his name because in the upper right corner, the mark looks like a signature, or John Hancock. He was also seen as a calf in 1991 and his mother is Clipper (one of Cynde’s favorites). Pepper was the first whale to be named in 1975! She wasn’t seen as a calf so they don’t know how old she is exactly, but she is at least 40 years old.

But back to talking about Nile. Cynde has seen Nile almost every year she has been a naturalist (over 20 years), so she decided to have a life-sized version of her made! 
Years ago, lots of schools would do field trips to watch whales, but that doesn’t happen as much anymore.  Cynde thought that taking a large whale into the schools was a close second to actually seeing a whale. I went to two schools with her and got to talk to 200 hundred children. The best part was that the students actually got to go INSIDE of Nile. Stay tuned for some of the things that the students were able to learn and see!!!

Have a great last few days before Christmas Sea Fans!
Chat soon.
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