Whale Watching & SonarCharts

Many people all over the world enjoy whale watching, whether as an impressive one-time experience or as a passion. Whale watching is a perfect opportunity for spending a day on the water with a group of people to see a great live show. The New England area in the United States is just one of the many places around the world where you can participate in a whale watch. There are also great spots in the Mediterranean along the Northwest coast of Italy, and the waters of France and Monaco, in the Northern Indian Ocean along the East and South coasts of Sri Lanka and The Maldives, or you can go in the Caribbean near the Dominican Republic, as well as in the South Pacific from Kaikoura, New Zealand and Queensland, Australia.

Whale watching charter crew members who use Navionics cartography can take advantage of SonarCharts to help find whales. Tasia Blough, a naturalist at the New England Aquarium Whale Watch, explained that whales stay in areas where nutrition is abundant:

“It's not only whales that we see out at this marine sanctuary but all different sorts of marine animals including turtles, seals, sharks and tuna just to name a few. All these animals, whales included, come here for the same reason and that is to feed on the abundant supply of food that this part of the ocean has to offer. You may be wondering why there is so much food for all different sorts of animals at this particular location. It all starts with a natural geographic feature on the ocean floor, an underwater shelf about the size of Rhode Island. This shelf, known as Stellwagen Bank, stretches across Massachusetts Bay and extends from just south of Cape Ann to just north of Provincetown, the tip of Cape Cod. The average depth on the shelf is about 100 feet, while just off the shelf it's about 350 feet, so there is quite a steep drop off. In areas of the ocean where we have these sharp bathymetric or depth gradients, water from very deep in the ocean is forced upwards, towards the surface of the water.

This natural phenomenon which scientists call upwelling is a driving force in this ecosystem and many ecosystems. As upwelling occurs, the water being forced to the surface is very cold, and the chemical properties of water make it such that cold water can absorb more nutrients than warmer water. So this cold water bubbling up to the surface is rich with nutrients and acts as a natural fertilizer. Just like our plants at home need nutrients and sunlight to grow, so do the plants of the ocean. With this natural fertilization, we get what is called phytoplankton blooms, a process which is comparable to flowers blooming in the spring time. These phytoplankton are the microscopic plants of the ocean, and though they are microscopic, they actually make up most of the ocean's biomass. As the base of the food web, these microscopic plants act as a biological catalyst for most of the ocean's ecosystems. As phytoplankton bloom, they provide an abundant supply of food to microscopic animals of the ocean known as zooplankton. The zooplankton then provide food to very small fish which in turn provide food not only to larger fish but to enormous mammals of the ocean, the whales we come out to see. This multi-stepped biophysical process is how the ocean floor is directly related to the whales that we see every day!”

So understanding the sea bottom correlates with whale watching. By using nautical charts, whale watching crews understand where to go in order to offer the most amazing show to participants. Those spots are often protected areas where ships are cautioned not to interfere with the whales’ habitat. If you really get excited about whales, take a look at the Sea Shephard for a more adventurous approach to wildlife conservation on the water.

Learn more about our SonarCharts HD bathymetry maps and get it for your GPS chartplotter, mobile, or PC. You can see it now by looking at our WebApp; zoom in and click on the SonarCharts icon on the bottom left of the screen. SonarCharts is very accurate because it includes contributions from any boater, whether using maps on plotter or mobile. This makes it so unique, and it’s updated every day!


Giovanni Viani, Navionics

Navionics products for use with the most popular GPS chartplotters include Navionics+, Navionics Updates, Platinum+, HotMaps Platinum, Gold and HotMaps Premium. Download Navionics Boating for free on iPhone, iPad, Android phone and tablet, and Windows tablet and PC from iTunes , Google Play,  and Windows Store or view charts online via WebApp.