I finished off the last blog post by talking about the special experience and fascinating research of been on first name terms with a wild whale. On the 24th June during a Whalewatch Explorer this was exemplified monumentally in a memorable natural spectacle.
Going Back to the year 2000 a minke whale with a distinctly notched dorsal fin was first sighted and positively identified using photo ID work, and was named Kasey. The whale has been one of the more regular animals encountered on marine excursions with Sea Life Surveys and has had strong site fidelity to certain areas of sea. Kasey was recorded with a calf in both the 2007 and 2008 season which confirms that the animal is a female.
Before this season (2014) our most recent encounter with Kasey was in 20th July 2012 on a two hour Ecocruz just out of Tobermory bay. I was just starting my introductory talk on the top deck of Sula Beag when someone spotted a whale surface just off of Rubha Nan Gall lighthouse so we informed Popz the skipper and he cut the engines as the animal came right into us. Viewing with the naked eye I recognized the unique dorsal fin straight away…Kasey! He/she did a complete circuit of the boat and I while I was lonesome on the bow he/she turned side on and made eye contact with me!
June 24th (2014) and during the morning we had witnessed a spectacular feeding frenzy consisting of over a hundred gannets striking the surface along with feeding shearwaters which were joined by up to four minke whales taking advantage of the abundant food source. That experience would be hard to beat but on our way back to the east in the afternoon we managed to trump it with an association that we will never forget.
We were under-way going through an area of sea nicknamed ‘the middle grounds’ when one of the passengers shouted “whale five o’clock!” Everyone persevered off the starboard stern until suddenly a whale surface rolled next to our wake coming directly in towards our stern. Popz cut the engines as we sat stationary on a flat calm sea state and another close surface showed that recognizable cut back dorsal fin…Kasey! (I was 95% sure it was her during the encounter which was confirmed later that day when studying the fin and back in more detail). Kasey swam right underneath Sula Beag and appeared just off the bow before turning back and having another look, working her all the way down the port side turning on her side and looking up at everyone on board! After another circuit of the boat Kasey then left us alone and then travelled in a northerly direction as everyone on board seemed to be in a state of shock.
A memorable moment in nature, a wild whale known in these waters for fourteen years performing a strong association in the same way a domestic dog would. True minke magic and another wonderful connection with the natural world.
Blog post also published here – http://www.sealifesurveys.com/captainslog/