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Humpback Whale Migration Update: April 26, 2000

Today's Report Includes:

Greetings from the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary
The weather here in Massachusetts (and along much of the East Coast) has been wet and wild over the past week, making travel by boat or plane quite difficult (travel by car hasn't been too much fun either).

Making Sense Out of Weather Maps
Take a look at the weather maps for April 19 and April 23. Locate the area near Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Cape Cod Massachusetts. After studying these maps, see if you can't answer the following question.

April 19

April 23

Challenge Question # 11:
"There is something going on near the coast of Massachusetts on both April 19 and April 23. How did a strong low pressure center make whale watching difficult during this week in April?"

(To respond to this question please follow the instructions below.)

Rough Seas Keep Watchers Close to Shore
Although many local commercial whale watch companies started their operations on April 15th, many of the trips were canceled or stayed relatively close to shore (where conditions were a bit more favorable than those out on the open seas of Stellwagen Bank). Nevertheless, whale watch passengers have been able to see a number of juvenile humpbacks and many finbacks in Cape Cod Bay.

Provincetown Harbor Sighting
Get out your maps and look for this sighting location! One group sighted a couple of humpbacks right in Provincetown harbor, according to Jooke Robbins of the Center for Coastal Studies. The researchers believe these whales are 1-2 year old juveniles based on their sizes.

Anvil, Dyad, and Dusky Make an Appearance
Mason Weinrich, director of the Cetacean Research Unit (CRU) of Gloucester, Mass. CRU says that the northern portion of Stellwagen Bank has recently been the feeding ground for some of the early arriving whales. He reports that several adult females with juveniles were seen earlier this month, including Anvil, Dyad, and Dusky. A week ago he was able to confirm a sighting of an adult male by the name of Seal. But to date, there have been no confirmed sightings of any mother-calf pairs. Here's a challenge question for you.

Challenge Question # 12:
"Is there any reason why the researchers have seen the whales (or expect further arrivals) in the above-mentioned order: adult females and juveniles, adult males and finally mother-calf pairs?"

(To respond to this question please follow the instructions below.)

Cetacean Research Unit Has New Name, Now Called:
Whale Center

Whale Center of New England

of New England
Mason Weinrich's group, Cetacean Research Unit (CRU), will be changing its name to Whale Center of New England next week.

That's all for this week. This is Anne Smrcina, education coordinator for the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.

World Temperature Effects
Discussion of Challenge Question #9

"What factors could influence this year's humpback migration to arrive and leave earlier than last year's?" Melanie from Warren Elementary in Bowling Green, Kentucky, shared her ideas with us with the following comment:

"In reference to question # 9, could the warmer temperatures we have been experiencing in parts of the world be responsible?"

I love the way Melanie answered her question with another question! Often scientists move from one question to another in their quest for a solution. We aren't sure of the exact answer to our question, but we think that Melanie has the right idea.

Objective vs. Subjective
Discussion of Challenge Question #10
"Which words in Kim's two-part report show that the observations are subjective? Which words describe more objective observations?" Many times we notice interesting events that aren't based on actual measurements. These events often are collected to help us keep track of the world around us. These observations can make very important springboards for setting up scientific experiments. Some of the words Kim used in our last update included the following:

"Lots if whales? noticed?numbers were similar?a bit later?Kim believes?and, sightings were slim".

Students from Mrs. Howley's Class in Southwest Harbor, ME sent the following:

"In her report we found a sentence that showed it was a subjective statement: Kim felt the peak number of whales occurred a bit earlier than last year. The key word is 'felt' which can not be backed up on a scientific basis proving it is a subjective statement."

"The article, "Whales Showing Lots of Baleen" specifically quotes, "Kim saw large surface active groups and some unusual behaviors" saying that she actually saw those things, making it an objective statement."

Thanks to Fox, Ashley, and Kassandra for your good analysis!

How to Respond to Today's Challenge Question:

1. Address an e-mail message to:
2. In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question #11 (or #12).
3. In the body of your message, answer the question above.

The Next Humpback Whale Migration Update will Be Posted on
May 10, 2000

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