Like most young people interested in biology from an early age, marine mammals always grabbed my attention. If you like nature, I'm not sure how they can not. I got my marine mammal fix by working at Sea World of Ohio as a teenager. It's not there anymore, and that isn't necessarily a bad thing.
But dropping the whole marine mammals in captivity argument, which we could talk about forever, let's move on to the open ocean. We are fortunate enough to live in a time in the earth's history during when with two of the largest animals that have ever lived on the earth, as far as our best science tells us. To think of all the gigantic dinosaurs that once roamed around the continents, and to know that the whales of the ocean today rival them in sheer size, is fairly spectacular. And it really isn't that all that difficult to see one of these species-
one of the best ways to see whales from southern Maine is a berth on the Odyssey, a whale watch vessel that sails right from the Old Port.
Which brings us to Portland, Maine. If you've never visited, it is one of the east coast's little big cities. A major port, it boasts a mix of the very old and very new. The picture above is of the US customs house, built in 1874. It is one of my favorite buildings in Portland, and I can't seem to photograph it enough.
Portland is ultimately a port city, and the seafood that can be had along the old port is fresh and delicious. It is captured daily along the coast by people like this man, heading down to the docks to begin a day on the water.
The dock along which the tour boats park was full of people on this Friday morning. I'm glad Megan and I had a reservation. Several other people were taking harbor cruises rather than the four-hour whale watch. In my opinion, you get your best bang for your buck with a whale watch. Built in harbor cruise, sea birds, and whales. What more could you ask for?
So let's just cut to the chase. It seemed like hours (well, that's because it was two hours) but we cruised out into the ocean, at what seemed like full throttle, for a LONG time. On the way out, we saw these creatures:
Two harbor porpoises, Phocoena phocoena, a mother and calf.
Several common eiders, Somateria mollissima.
The greater shearwater, Puffinus gravis
And several northern gannets, Morus bassanus:
Then, finally, after two hours heading straight out into the Atlantic Ocean, the blow of a finback whale, Balaenoptera physalus, the world's second largest living animal, ever. And not only one, but two, a mother and her 30 foot long calf.
These animals are amazingly long- the woman's head in this shot provides great scale.
And that was our whale watching experience on the Odyssey. If you're in Portland Maine, I'd recommend it highly. $45 gets you a four hour adventure, full of whales, porpoises, pelagic birds, and the sights of Portland Harbor.
This is my contribution to the July 18th edition of "Camera Critters"