June 28, 2009
57° 29.7359 N
I arrived down in the main lab at 08:00. Matt and Pat had gotten up earlier to sample from the morning CTD and I took over watching the small-volume filtrations until lunch so they could get some sleep. After lunch, Matt and I prepared the sediment traps for deployment. The tubes had been filled with a 10% hydrochloric acid solution the night before for a thorough cleaning. The acid was drained and each tube was rinsed three times with deionized water before being filled with the brine solution.
The traps were set out to drift at 15:20, once again without incident. During the night the seas had calmed making deployment easy when compared to the first time one week ago. Immediately after the traps were released the ship repositioned for a CTD cast and it was time to sample again. The three of us started the process around 16:30. Pat went to sleep at 18:30 so he could get up at midnight to help with the bongos again, leaving Matt and I to finish up. The filtrations finished at 21:30 and I stayed for cleanup.
One hour later, I finished up rinsing all of the bottles used in the day's filtrations. I was patiently waiting at the computer for the ship to change its course to something other than southwest (when the ship is traveling southwest, the Internet antenna is blocked from the satellite by the mast) when Brian Hoover, one of the two bird spotters on board the Thompson for the TN-250 cruise, came down to the lab and asked me if I was busy. When I replied no, he informed me that we were coming up on a pod of fin whales and thought I might be interested. He was right. We hurried up to the bridge and for the first 10 minutes or so there was nothing in sight. For the past two weeks people have been asking me "did you see the whales earlier today?" My reply was always in the negative. It seems that I was the only person on board that had yet to see a whale this cruise. Then, about 4-500 meters off the starboard bow was a blow. Since the vast majority of a whale is below the waterline when it is spotted, I asked how they knew it was a fin whale. I was told that whales are identified by their blow. Fin whales show their dorsal fin soon after releasing a water spout and sure enough this was the case.
Fin whales are the second largest whale (second only to the blue whale) and also the second largest animal on the planet. These whales belong to the suborder of baleen whales and exist in the waters of all the world's oceans. Subspecies found in the Arctic can grow up to 80 feet in length, weigh up to 150,000 lbs, and live as long as 90 years. They feed primarily on small schooling fish, small squid and krill. Fin whales pull large amounts of water into their open mouths and then trap their prey in their baleen plates as they force the water back out. For the next hour and a half we saw about 10 different fin whales as the ship moved to the next station, a truly unforgettable experience. My checklist is now complete.