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Flow-field observations of a tidally driven island wake used by marine mammals in the Bay of Fundy, Canada

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Correlations between fine-scale oceanographic features and aggregations of marine mammals are frequently reported, but the physical forces shaping these relationships are rarely explored. We conducted a series of oceanographic observations and remote sensing surveys of an oceanographic feature near Grand Manan Island known to attract marine mammals on flood tides. We tracked drift drogues from cliff-top with a theodolite and conducted box-type surveys with an acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP) to assess flow patterns within the oceanographic feature. The feature was also visualized with Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) scenes. Drift drogues were advected towards a shear line originating near the northern tip of the island and entrained in one or more eddies downstream. ADCP surveys confirmed the presence of the shear line between rapid easterly flow and slower return flow. As the tide progressed, the shear line extended and manifested a single anti-cyclonic eddy at its distal end. As the flood tide progressed, northerly flow along the eastern shore of the island intensified and deflected the shear line northwards, shedding the eddy at slack high water. SAR images confirmed the presence of the shearline and eddy system, illustrating the evolution of a wake behind the island on flood tides. Profiles of flow direction and acoustic backscatter revealed secondary flows within the wake consistent with models and observations of other wakes. Oceanographic and remote sensing observations confirm that an island wake is generated by tidal flow past Grand Manan Island and provide an ecological context for the predictable aggregations of odontocete and mysticete cetaceans observed foraging within this region.

Keywords: eddy; foraging; island wake; marine mammal

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Nicholas School of the Earth and Ocean Sciences, Duke University Marine Laboratory, 135 Duke Marine Lab Rd, Beaufort, NC 28516, USA

Publication date: 2007-09-01

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