By Dr. Artie Kopelman

Things started slowly, with little action until we saw the Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola) about 16 miles out. Shortly thereafter, we began to see large numbers of shearwaters and petrels and we got a report of whales just 1.5 miles directly ahead of us. We found 5 fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) right away there spread over a half a mile, including a mom and calf (our first whales) and 3 others. The mom fin whale was about 70′ long and surfaced next to us repeatedly (see the photos), her calf was just about old enough to be weaned and was spending most of its time away from mom. Among the other fin whales that we encountered and photographed was CRESLI.2013.07.21-13 that we had not seen since July 21, 2013 (an epic day with 25 fin whales, 12 humpbacks, 2 minke whales, and 600 common dolphins).  The whales were feeding throughout the water column because there was bait (probably sand eels) from 50-170 feet down.

We stayed with these whales for an hour and were thoroughly  elated, not just to see the whales, but to also see the pelagic (open ocean) birds such as Wilson’s storm petrels (Oceanites oceanicus) visitors every year from the Antarctic, and the various shearwater species (Great, Cory’s, Sooty, and Manx). Even more surprising was the South Polar Skua (Stercorarius maccormicki).

As we started to turn home, we found a minke whale (B. acutorostrata) and 3 more fin whales , but we didn’t have time to spend with them. It was an incredible first trip! A perfect day!

Here is the final tally:

8 Fin Whales
1 Minke Whale
1 Ocean Sunfish
1 Blue Shark
46 Great Shearwaters
80 Cory’s Shearwaters
25 Sooty Shearwaters
120 Wilson’s Storm Petrels
4 Manx Shearwaters
1 South Polar Skua
1 Black Tern

We sail every Sunday, weather permitting, until September 3, 2017, leaving the Viking Landing at 9:30 AM and returning at 3:30 PM.  Go to the Coastal Research and Education Society of Long Island  (CRESLI) website for information, reports, links for reservations and more.

Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola)

Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus)

Cory’s Shearwater

Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus)

More photos on page 2