WhaleNet Reports
Harbor Seal

Harbor Seal

Satellite Tagging Observation Reports

Name- "Lucky"
Seal Tag

  • "Lucky" Satellite Chart
    Closer view of movements.

    3/1/01 - Remember all of what I said yesterday??...well never mind... It appears that the problem was not with the tag or "Lucky", and more data has begun to arrive at this end. Just to add insult to embarrassment it appears that "Lucky" has made yet another unexpected change of direction and behavior. Keep in mind that most folks do not think harbor seals spend a great deal of time offshore, and would be spending most of their time to the south around Cape Cod at this time of the year. So where did "Lucky" go while I was trying to find the location data? Well, north of course, and back to the coast. Over the weekend, it appears that "Lucky" headed nearly straight north and swam close to ninety miles during those three to four days. His latest location puts him just to the north of Harpswell, Maine. Also, it does not appear that he has spent a great deal of time hauled out, once he reached the coast. All of this gets stranger when you consider that after better than a month and one half after his release, and a swim from the middle of the Gulf of Maine, to the southern part of Cape Cod Bay, "Lucky" is now only about 30 miles north of his release point.

    I guess the bottom line is that if I really knew what this seal would do, I would not be tracking him in the first place.

    3/5/01 - Latest for "Lucky". He still appears to be staying near Small Point (Maine). In an area known appropriately enough Seal Cove. It appears that he is hauling out for short periods and moving offshore as far as about a mile or so, but returning to the same general area.

    3/6/01 - Latest locations for "Lucky"... There are probably better days to be a harbor seal out at sea... For the past 24 hours or so (and for probably another 18-24 hours) a major storm (nor'easter) has been passing pretty much directly over "Lucky"s head. These are (obviously) huge storms. The long duration and speed of the winds can generate large waves even well offshore. Lucky's latest positions show that he is still offshore near Wildcat Knoll (roughly 20 miles from Cape Ann and Provincetown, and about 25-30 miles east of Boston). Once again he is staying within a small region of the Knoll and seems to be moving around an area of several square miles. This is very similar to his behavior during his past trips to this location. Keep in mind he has been within about ten miles of this location on two separate occasions over the past month or so. So far he is showing an uncanny ability to re-locate this general location even after side trips of several days and up to one hundred miles.

    To get some idea of just how nasty the storm is getting out that way, check the latest data from theNational Buoy Data Center (http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/index.shtml). Lucky is roughly between two stations, but the data below is from one (the Gulf of Maine Buoy)...note the rise in wave height as the storm passes over, with waves over 20 feet and winds of over 40 knots right now....

    Hopefully, we get to see what happens over the next day or so as the storm passes...

    3/7/01 - Well...that was refreshing!

    It looks like the storm that has been hovering over the Northeast for the past few days has pretty much blown itself out. For me this means digging out from under a foot or so of snow. For "Lucky" it looks like at least another day of a wild ride out at sea.

    His latest locations place him still on Wildcat Knoll very close to the same location he was in at the beginning of February. Below is a bit more data from the Gulf of Maine data buoy, to give you an idea of the conditions offshore right now. Keep in mind that because of the size of the recent storm and the long time that the wind was blowing, there will continue to be a lot of wave action for a while.

    Also..."Lucky" has been transmitting now for 56 days. With luck, this should be roughly half of the life of the battery in his tag. So far we have been doing quite well. We have received over 1800 messages that have provided almost 450 locations so far. This is about 9 locations per day (the tag is only transmitting for 16 hours per day). The track we have for "Lucky" over the past fifty days works out to a distance of over 1,100 miles (or an average of about 20 miles of travel per day)....

    Attached are two maps of his track and present location.

    So far...very good...keep your fingers crossed...

    3/13/01 - Latest data from "Lucky". Several days here...It looks like "Lucky" has been staying close to the same location, although he has gradually moved south about fifteen miles or so in the past three or four days". He appears to be following along the edge of a deep water drop-off that leads away from the area he has spent most of his time near (Wildcat Knoll). His most recent location is about fifteen miles offshore of the east end of Cape Cod (the town of Truro, Massachusetts). If he continues in this direction he will end up close to some of the largest seal haul outs on the east coast (near the southeast edge of Cape Cod). Given how wrong I have been in the past at guessing what "Lucky" would do next, I am not betting that I am right. With luck, we will see what happens...

    3/14/01 - Locations for "Lucky" from yesterday. These show him still moving slowly to the south, and with the exception of the last point, keeping about 20 miles offshore. The last point looks like he was heading west towards the coast of Truro, Massachusetts (and was about 7 miles offshore as of last night), however this point does point have a high accuracy (LC) rating. Looking at the distance and time between the last two points in today's set, it is most likely that one of those two locations is not correct (it would be hard for him to swim that far in the time between the two points). Hopefully, tomorrow we should have an answer, and should know if "Lucky" is indeed headed back to the coast.

    3/20/01 - Over the weekend it appears that "Lucky" has traveled from the southern part of Wildcat Knoll, back across the Gulf of Maine ( trip of roughly 100 miles or so) and is now back at Seal Cove (no..I am not making that up) on Cape Small, Maine (just south along the coast from Boothbay, Maine). If all of this is starting to sound a little familiar, it should. This is the same location "Lucky" left to make his latest trip to Wildcat Knoll (about three weeks ago). Hopefully we will get some more data in the next few days, but it appears that "Lucky" has managed to find the same location after a 200 mile round trip and about a month at sea. Not bad for a seal in his first year that has never done this sort of thing before....

    3/23/01 - Well "Lucky" continues to be unpredictable. These latest locations (from the past two days) show him moving away from the coast again (he has been near the coast of Maine around Cape Small) and once again headed south. What is interesting is that he appears to be following a path that is very similar (today, within a mile or so) of the path he took on his last trip south, roughly one month ago. Whether he will end up, once again near Wildcat Knoll we will (hopefully) see. So far, however "Lucky" has shown us some things that we (folks that study harbor seals) did not know. The general feeling has been that harbor seals make the trip from Maine to Cape Cod seasonally and that they stay near Cape Cod in the winter and near the coast of Maine in the spring and summer. At least in the case of "Lucky" it looks like moving from Cape Cod to Maine, may be something that they do far more often. In "Luckys" case this will be his third trip.

    3/26/01 - The latest form "Lucky". Over the weekend "Lucky" continued to move south headed generally back to the same location he left roughly one week ago. Our latest locations place him roughly twenty to thirty miles offshore and roughly ten miles from the southern edge of Wildcat Knoll. While he appears to have moved quickly away from shore, for the past day or so he appears to be moving a bit more slowly. With luck, we will see, in the next few days, if he continues to move back to familiar territory.

    3/28/01 - Here are the latest locations for "Lucky". For the past several days "Lucky" appears to be moving slowly south, nearly following the route he took the last time he made this trip. He has reached the northern edge of Wildcat Knoll, and is about 10 miles from the location here, where he has spent the most time. If he continues in the direction he is heading, he should reach that spot in another day or se. Hopefully we will see. Still, this is proving to be a very remarkable track, as it has shown that a young seal can apparently move easily between haulout locations in Maine, and feeding areas near Cape Cod.

    very cool stuff...

    ps:The center of "Luckys" offshore activity is around Lat 42.39 and Lon 69.97 so watch to see if he zeros in around that general area...

    3/30/01 - Latest locations for "Lucky". For the past two days "Lucky" has been staying in the same general location, moving slowly south along Wildcat Knoll. This is nearly the same location he was in during the first week of this month.

    There will be a bit of an interruption in reports next week while I am away. Hopefully we will get caught up on what is going on in about a week.

    Keep your fingers crossed.

    4/10/01 - Did you ever get the feeling that someone is trying to pull a joke on you? Do you ever get the feeling that it is a seal that is trying to pull your leg? Here is the story...

    When I left off tracking "Lucky" he was hanging around the location he has spent the most time near (Wildcat Knoll). I am away from email for a week, so the next time I check in on him he appears to be in just about the same location. Now, had I been in a hurry, I would have written a note that said "Oh, "Lucky" has been hanging around the same location for the past week.". The problem is, however that checking a little closer, I find out that while I was away "Lucky" made yet another trip north to the coast of Maine. About three days up...about three days on or near the coast and another two days or so back to pretty much where he started from. This is about a 200 mile round trip. leaving and returning to an unmarked (as far as I can tell) spot in the ocean, and heading up to the same location (looks like maybe even the same rocks) on the coast (Seal Cove, near Cape Small, Maine). If you have been keeping count...this makes three trips between these locations and (I will have to double check to be sure) from a quick look, it appears that he is making the trip faster, and with fewer curves in his track...

    Tomorrow will be the three month mark for this tag, and I am not sure how much longer we can expect it to continue signaling. Hopefully we will get a few more weeks, but from here on out it will be anybodies guess. The most recent set of messages only had a single good location, while this may only be due to weather (waves blocking transmissions) it may also be due to the battery starting to fail.

    Keep your fingers crossed...this is getting real interesting..

    4/17/01 - "Houston we may have a problem". I know I have said this before, but here is the news. Over the weekend we only received data from "Lucky" on one day. We have not had any reports from Sunday or this morning. I am a bit suspicious, as the messages Saturday ended at the last satellite pass, and it would be strange if the tag stopped sending signals at exactly that time. The tag, however is getting close to the end of it's battery life, so I suspect it is a possibility (another strange thing is that ALL of the signals were good location hits...again it would be odd for a tag that was failing to be signaling that well just before it quit). Right now I am checking to see if it is a problem in the network, and I should have that figured out in a day or so. Meanwhile, the data we did get from the tag show that "Lucky" began to head north along the edge of Wildcat Knoll. If I was to guess, I would say that he might be heading back towards Maine again, but it would take more data to be sure. Hopefully we will get some more and be able to find out.

    Keep your fingers crossed.

    3/19/01- Looks like the problem was not with "Lucky" or the transmitter (somewhere in all of the satellites, networks, email etc., etc., etc.). Anyway, here is the data form the missing days up to date. It appears that while I was not looking (why does this always seem to happen when I am not watching...??) "Lucky" headed back to the Main coast again and after a quick three days was, once again back at Seal Cove near Cape Small. This time, however after a day or so in this area he began to head north along the coast, very close to the route he took immediately after he was released. His most recent locations are near Vinylhaven Island Maine. If he continues in the same direction he is heading, he may well end up again at Pickering Island (the location he spent several weeks near immediately after he was released). Hopefully we will see in the next few days...

    4/24/01 - Here are the moist recent locations for "Lucky". This should catch us up from the weekend until today. Over the weekend, "Lucky" appears to have kept near the same location around Ledbetter Island near the west coast of Vinalhaven Island Maine. From the number of signals per pass, it appears that he was hauling out for at least a part of this time. Early yesterday it appears that he has begun to move south near the coast again, and his latest locations have him about 2.5 miles offshore of Sprucehead , Maine. This puts him roughly half the distance back to the location where he has spent most of is time near shore (Cape Small...also near the location that he stranded). Right now, however there is no way to tell if he will continue near the coast or, once again move offshore. Hopefully, we will get some more information over the next few days to figure this one out.

    Some numbers so far...103...the number of days tracked, so far...790..number of locations in the track so far...(works out to about 8/day)...1950...number of miles the track covers (this represents the minimum distance covered by "Lucky" in his travels) this works out to roughly 18 miles per day of travel on average.

    4/25/01 - The latest from "Lucky". It appears that "Lucky" is on the move again. He now appears to be heading south and west, more or less along the coast, although heading offshore. His present location puts him about 25 miles offshore of Boothbay, Maine (or about 50 miles due east of Portland, Maine depending on how you look at it). This point is about midway (25 miles) from his most frequented haul out location on the coast, and about 25 miles from his most recent location. His last location point has a low reliability, however, it looks like he may be heading close to the offshore track he took on his first trip from Maine to Cape Cod.

    4/27/01 - Well it is getting near to crunch time...

    Lucky has be sending signals for over 100 days now (actually more like 104 days, but who is counting). The last tag of this type that has been out this long transmitted for 111 days ( on "Bubba" the hooded seal...who sent a total of 1072 locations...Lucky, so far, has sent a total of just under 1000...). So we are getting to the point where we can expect the tag to fail as its battery runs out of power. For the past two days we have gotten fewer signals, and fewer that have given us good locations. This may be simply due to thefact that "Lucky" is far offshore and the signals are getting blocked by wave action, or it may be a sign that the tag is finally starting to fail. In any case I am really hoping for at least a couple of more days of signals. The reason is that for the past few days "Lucky" has been traveling south from the coast of Maine. He appears to be moving farther offshore, but generally headed towards the northern coast of Massachusetts or New Hampshire. His last reported locations were from the northern edge of Jeffery's Ledge, a very productive fishing area about 25 miles east of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. What is most interesting (and the reason I would really like another few days of tracking) is that this area is in the center of all of the north/south tracks that "Lucky" made on his trips between the coast and Wildcat Knoll. Also, if his last location is to be believed (it is not a very reliable LC) his direction on his present track changed abruptly from going west, to going south. Basically, it looks like he passed over a prominent landmark, that he has crossed before and made a sharp left turn. It would be very interesting to see if this is really what he did, and which way his present track takes him.

    Keep your fingers crossed and hope that these batteries last for another few days...

    January/February Reports / March/April Reports / May Reports

    More seal data is available in the current WhaleNet Listserv. Sort and go to FIND for "Seal Data", "Lucky" entries.
    Map of "Lucky's" travels.

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