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Thar She Blows!

June 8, 2024

Thar She Blows!

- as seen by -

Bryan Kao Bryan Kao

Water, water everywhere… and right whales and a canyon.

I first learned about Hudson Canyon and its incredible biodiversity from the Wildlife Conservation Societys campaign to nominate and now push for it to be designated as a National Marine Sanctuary. This expansive undersea canyon begins approximately 100 miles southeast of the Statue of Liberty and spans 350 miles offshore.  At its deepest point, it is 10,500 feet below sea level. The canyon is embedded in the continental slope far into the pelagic zone of open water, a seemingly endless expanse of dancing blue waves stretching across the horizon. Recently, I had the opportunity to explore and witness Hudson Canyon on a 24-hour pelagic whale and bird tour. Out on the open ocean, I saw seabirds including shearwaters and petrels that migrate around the world and only seek onshore cliffs to raise young, tiny puffins and auks bobbing on the surface, a barnacle-encrusted loggerhead sea turtle, and many ocean sunfish protruding their tall fins out of the depths.

But the biggest highlight of my adventure was witnessing the might of the approximately 52-foot long, 140,000-pound North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis), one of the most endangered large baleen whales on the planet.  Right whales are known for shooting a V-shaped blow that can extend more than 10 feet in the air and their ability to filter-feed plankton. We saw the spouting of about 10 right whales, a significant percentage of their entire population considering fewer than 360 individuals of this critically endangered leviathan remain. Historically ravaged by whalers as the “right” whale to hunt, North Atlantic right whales are still highly threatened these days from vessel strikes, entanglement in fishing gear, and underwater noise pollution.

Knowing these precious and critically endangered whales pass through and even spend extended time in Hudson Canyon on their northward migration from Florida to Nova Scotia gives even more reason to protect this amazing habitat and all its deep dwellers.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Today is World Ocean Day, a time to celebrate the major role the ocean has in our lives and to take actions to advance ocean conservation. Check out the scientific and conservation efforts from WCS’s Ocean Giants team that are focused on better protecting the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, endangered fin and sei whales, humpback whales, dolphins, and porpoises throughout the New York Bight, including the Hudson Canyon.

, Atlantic Ocean Map It


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