What an unbelievable Boston Whale Watch we had today! We saw seven different Humpback Whales and a Minke Whale! The Humpbacks were traveling in three very separate groups. The first duo we saw was Echo and Clamp.
Here they are traveling together, Clamp on the left and Echo on the right.
I immediately recognized Echo’s very unique fluke!
It wasn’t until our ride home that I was able to identify Clamp! This was my first time seeing Clamp and I believe her name was inspired by the black marks on the top of her left fluke that look like a pair of clamps!
As we were watching Echo and Clamp, one of the whales in a group behind us breached twice!
This was also my first time seeing Churn! This was the first time Churn has been spotted in the feeding ground by anyone this year! Churn was traveling in a group of three. I was unable to identify either of the other whales she was with. They were not doing a lot of fluking when they dove so I was unfortunately unable to get very clean shots of their flukes. I did notice, however, that one of the whales appeared to have an injury.
This is a poor quality photo, but you can see that on the area between the dorsal fin and the fluke which is known as the tail stock, there is a deep gash. At the time, we were very far away and it appeared to be a scar but, after looking at zoomed photos, I think it may have been a fresh injury. I submitted photos of the injury to researchers at the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies so they can determine if this is in fact a fresh injury and try to monitor the individual’s health through sighting reports and photo submissions.
The last duo we saw was Victim and another unknown whale. Victim is very easily identifiable by her deformed fluke. You can see the way the fluke hooks normally on the left but how it is severed on the right. Unfortunately, due to the significant role humans play throughout coastal waters, our oceans are not always safe for these whales. You can see the long term results of those dangers here for Victim who is luckily a very resilient and thriving individual!
We are seeing so many different and new Humpback Whales in the area! Many of them are whales that we have not seen at all this year and some of them are whales that we rarely ever see. I believe as whales are beginning to head south from the Gulf of Maine and the Bay of Fundy, they are passing right through our neighborhood and stopping for one more bite to eat before they make their long journey down to the Caribbean!
This is the last week of Whale Watching in Boston! Usually we see less whales toward the end of the season but this season is quite the opposite! It looks like we are seeing more whales now than we were in the middle of the summer! So if you are thinking about getting some Whale Watching in before it’s too late, don’t hesitate to join us for a Boston Whale Watch! Stellwagen Bank is still teeming with life!
Photos by Tasia Blough
We had a fantastic day on our Boston Whale Watch! We got to see four different Humpback Whales!
The first two we saw were Pinball and Putter who were staying together as they circled around the area while diving to the bottom of the ocean.
Right nearby, two other Humpbacks named Echo and Decimal seemed to really be enjoying themselves!
Decimal immediately caught our attention with some serious tail lobbing!
Decimal was born in 1985 and has not been seen with any calves since which makes it likely that Decimal is a male. We can not positively identify a Humpback as male unless they are seen breeding in their breeding grounds or a breath or blood sample has been taken from them. It’s always possible that Decimal could be a female who is just incapable of reproduction and has thus not shown up to the feeding ground with any calves.
Echo stayed by Decimal’s side throughout the entirety of our whale watch. We saw this today with Putter and Pinball as well and observe this behavior quite regularly. It is not always clear why whales stay with one another over varied periods of time. These associations often occur at feeding grounds. They might choose to pair up because of the advantages of working together while feeding, however, they were for the most part not displaying obvious signs of feeding. It is entirely possible that they enjoy companionship. This would be a very difficult question to scientifically answer especially due to the fact that Humpbacks are primarily solitary creatures.
Even as Decimal flipper slapped, Echo (out of the photo here) stayed within flipper’s length. Decimal was incredibly active today! Every time Decimal surfaced, it was as if the sea was the stage and it was time to perform the flipper slapping routine! It is so amazing how active and charismatic Humpbacks can be!
We had such an exciting whale watch onboard the Voyager III today!! It is so nice to see this surge in Humpback activity this late in October! What a great trip!
~Tasia, Naturalist, photos by Tasia Blough
We had beautiful seas on Saturday; a treat for October! With that came some excellent marine animal sightings as well for both of our trips. In the morning we had a small group of harbor porpoise, brief glimpses of two basking sharks, a couple of minke whales and two new humpbacks for the year – Touchdown and Ditto! In the afternoon we found yet another basking shark, a couple of very curious young harbor seals, several minke whales, and a long beautiful fin whale in the distance while we caught up with our good friend Nile who was traveling with Patchwork again. Though the season is wrapping up, there’s still lots of great stuff offshore for Boston Whale Watching.
Heidi Hansen, Naturalist
We were super excited to see two Humpback Whales on today’s whale watch! One of these whales was one of our favorites, Nile, and the other was a Humpback I have never seen before named Patchwork.
Patchwork is a 16 year old Humpback named for the Patchwork quilt features on his fluke. He appears to have lost part of his fluke at some point but I am unsure of how this happened.
The duo stuck very close together, not leaving each other’s side for a moment. Nile at one point pulled an awesome tail lobbing move but unfortunately it was so quick I couldn’t capture it!
We also saw a variety of migrating offshore birds on todays’s whale watch and a couple seals, which was really exciting! Overall, we had a spectacular day of whale watching!
The Splash from Nile’s tail lob that I missed
Nile and Patchwork swim together
photos by Tasia Blough
Ocean Frontiers is an award-winning film series that portrays citizens coming together for the sake of their sea. Our passengers love it! On every whale watch, Boston’s Best Cruises shows the chapter of the film that discusses the complexities of Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Having a National Marine Sanctuary located near Boston involves many stakeholders’ interests, including whales!
The sequel film, “Ocean Frontiers II: A New England Story for Sustaining the Sea” will premiere on Tuesday, October 29, 7-9pm at the New England Aquarium.
Part of the new documentary was filmed aboard the Voyager III, Boston’s Best Cruises Whale Watch ship. We can’t wait to see you at the show!
RSVP for Ocean Frontiers 2 here: http://bit.ly/OceanFrontiers2Boston
We had a very special sighting on today’s Boston whale watch! Out on the northwest corner of Stellwagen Bank we found two female humpback whales: Wizard and Salt! Salt is the first humpback to be named in 1976 and has been seen every year in the Sanctuary since. It was our first sighting of her this year, and always a pleasure to see her socializing. What a great way to spend a beautiful fall day offshore, with one of the most famous whales in the world!
Boston’s Best Cruises Whale Watch boat, the Voyager III, then shared this great finding with other whale watches on the Stellwagen Bank
Check out this amazing video from our Lead Naturalist, Melissa Rocha, of a pod of Pilot Whales swimming right next to our boat! We haven’t seen this in more than 10 years!
We saw four different species of marine animals today! It was an absolutely incredible Boston Whale Watch!
Cruising Jeffrey’s Ledge, we first had a chance to see two Minke Whales. But off in the distance, some serious splashing caught our eye! As we approached the whales, I could see through my binoculars that it was two Humpback Whales tail lobbing! Tail lobbing is when whales smack their enormous flukes or tails on the surface of the water creating an enormous splash! As we approached the whales, the tail lobbing subsided but they continued to flipper slap!
Slapping each of their left pectoral fins on the surface of the water at the same time, it was as if they were synchronizing their behavior!
After a little while they started moving then slept a little bit but went right back to flipper slapping! They were creating quite the spectacle right up next to the boat!
Between shows they did some diving and some traveling at which time we were able to get good looks at their flukes to ID them.
One of them had a seriously deformed fluke. I could see immediately that the right fluke had had a huge chunk taken out of it. Even though it is sad to see a whale that had undergone such an awful injury, I was not concerned because the tissue had scarred over and appeared to have healed well. The loss of this whale’s right fluke makes it very easy to identify if you know where to look. This was the first time I had seen such an injury. As I quickly cross referenced recent whale sightings to flukes in our Humpback catalog, I found that this was a female Humpback named Victim.
Victim was first seen by scientists in 1988 and since then she has had 3 calves that we know of. Because Victim’s name reflects her injury (she was at one point a victim), I can only assume that the injury must have happened before she was first spotted, named and cataloged. What I wonder and I’m sure many guests on board wonder is what happened to her and how she lost part of her right fluke. The only real large whale predators apart from humans are Orcas or Killer Whales and they are only a danger to whales when they are calves. The nature of the injury suggests that the loss of her right fluke was caused by Orcas. First of all, we know the injury happened when she was young which is a time when whales are more vulnerable to Orca attacks.
Secondly, when you take a closer look at this photo, you’ll see that the scarring formed on her fluke is consistent with Orca attacks. Orcas have evenly spaced conical teeth which create rake mark scarring. At the very trailing edge of the right fluke you will see these rake marks which, in addition to loss of tissue, are the typical scars left by Orca attacks. Nonetheless, it is fantastic to see that Victim was able to bounce back and is continuing to lead an active and healthy life!
The other Humpback was a whale named Pina! First spotted in 1990, Pina is a female Humpback who has since had six calves that we know of. Both Pina and Victim have spent a lot of time on Jeffrey’s ledge over the passed few weeks. Unfortunately, they have for the most part been just out of boat range! So this was the first time I have seen either of them which was very exciting for me! I love meeting new whales!
The entire trip they stayed very close to one another and in fact did not leave one another’s side once! Throughout this time they flipper slapped, they slept (also known as logging), and they traveled but again stayed within feet of one another. This is what they call an “association” and a rather close one at that. We shall see over the next couple days or weeks how long this association lasts! Typically they can be anywhere from a couple hours to six months!
We also had a couple seals and lots of tuna in the area today!
This yellowfin tuna came right up out of the water! While this species can grow to be over 1,000 pounds, this individual was not quite the “butterball” that all the fisherman in Gloucester set out to catch!
We had another amazing Whale Watch! I can not wait to get back on the water!
photos by Tasia Blough
Today we had some grey skies and light rain as we headed out for our Boston Whale Watch but it was a fabulous trip nonetheless. The whales brave the rain and so do we! Thanks to our first mate, Kenny, and his keen eyesight we found not only three Fin whales, but a small pod of Atlantic White-sided dolphins! The dolphins were swimming right in front of the whales and almost on top of them! Check out these photos of them!
A great day on the water!
~Melissa, Lead Naturalist
Photos all by M.Rocha and of dolphins, and and dolphins and Fin whales together.
Unbelievably gorgeous weather made our Boston Whale Watching trip one to remember. We found two Fin Whales just northeast of Cape Ann and encountered our first ever “Raft of Eiders”!
Along the way, we passed the beautiful twin lighthouses on Thatcher’s Island as we rounded Cape Ann.
Once we found the whales we had really fantastic looks of two different Fin Whales as they spent a lot of time on the surface!
It is generally much more difficult to identify Fin Whales than it is Humpbacks. The identification process is systematic and typically requires photos from a number of different angles. This particular Fin Whale, however, is quite recognizable because of the notch on its dorsal fin. This is Fjord, a Fin Whale that has been seen in the area since 1996. Since it has never been seen with a calf, we assume that he is male!
The other Fin Whale we saw had very distinct markings on her body! You can see the two white marks on her tail stock on the left. These are scars which make her very identifiable. When it comes to Fin Whales, dorsal shape and scars are an important part of the identification process. I also learned that this is a female Fin Whale named Comet! Comet was last seen with a calf in 2007!
On the way home, we saw something that none of our crew members have ever seen before! From far away, it looked like a ball of bait fish making splashes at surface of the water.
Once we got closer, we realized it was hundreds of ducklings flapping and splashing on top of one another! They looked like Eider ducklings and we concluded that this was what they call a “raft of Eiders”! These were just baby Eiders! Only ten minutes later we saw another group of them! It was so fascinating and it’s always exciting to see and learn about new things out in our coastal waters!
Captain Carl took us on an amazing scenic route by Baker’s Island and Children’s Island off of Marblehead! Here is a photo of the beautiful lighthouse on Baker’s Island!It’s not too late to join us before it cools off! We had perfect weather and another unique and exciting trip today! Thank you to Heidi, another naturalist of ours, for providing me with her camera and getting these photos to me so quickly!
photos by Tasia Blough