8/17/15

Log for August 17, 2015

I am pleased to say that we had what Captain Chip called a “top three whale watch” today afternoon aboard the Aurora! It started off great with an early sighting of a small alien-like Mola mola, also known as a giant ocean sunfish. These gelatinous feeders spend most of their time floating at the surface in the sun which is, of course, how they got their name. This behavior gives us the unique opportunity to see quite a number of these bony fish (the largest in the world) at various points throughout the season!


We then moved on to Cajun, her calf and Pele who appeared to be subsurface feeding. After watching this trio for about 15 minutes, we heard a report of a humpback who was possibly entangled close by. We cruised over to the scene and observed the juvenile of concern floating vertically in the water column, it’s rostrum up out of the water while refraining from breathing for at least 12 minutes. Though we observed no gear at the surface, we considered that pot gear may have been wrapped around the peduncle and anchoring it to the ocean floor. We were incredibly relieved when the whale who turned out to be Nile’s 2014 calf slowly angled horizontally and eventually took a breath of air.


The behavior that followed was some of the most exciting marine mammal interactions I have ever experienced! Nile 14 Calf proceeded to circle the Aurora displaying a definite interest in both the boat and the passengers aboard. 


He spy hopped, rolled, looked up at us and lifted his pectorals in the air. Though Captain Chip gives me a hard time for using the term “mugging”, even he admitted that we got “mugged” by Nile 14 Calf.


It was both exciting and touching to have such a special experience with the much anticipated calf that Nile was carrying throughout the 2013 feeding season, which has been coined by naturalists and scientists alike as the “summer of Nile”. 


I’d love to see everyone’s footage of this very special trip. Definitely make sure to share your awesome photos and videos with us on Instagram! #Bostonharborcruises


— Tasia

8/13/15

Log for August 13, 2015

Today we were very lucky to have such a beautiful day out on the bank! Collaborating with other boats in the area, we decided to head towards the middle of Stellwagen Bank with the goal of moving towards the eastern edge and heading south.  

Firefly and calf — up close and personal

Once we arrived at the western edge of the bank near the shipping lane we were floored to have found Firefly and her calf! Firefly is a personal new sighting this season and I was thrilled to see her again. She has been a staple to the Gulf of Maine humpback whale population and has proudly brought calves to this area during previous seasons.  

Baby breach

Luckily, her calf was breaching over and over right next to our boat!  It was such a calm bright day on the water and the calf had a very relaxed breaching style, making it such a fun summer day!  It is always fun to observe these behaviors and theorize why they are breaching the way they do.  

Summer on Stellwagen

Sometimes we can make an educated guess that they are communicating with other whales in the area, or maybe expressing a dominant behavior. This calf seemed so laid-back and really looked like he/she was just enjoying the morning like the rest of us.  

One fun-loving calf?

Other than breaching, we were excited to see lobtailing from the calf, as well as some rolling, flipper slapping, and spy hopping! We were in the company of the Miss Cape Ann, Hurricane II, and Privateer IV.  Thanks to Captain Jim we were able to have a bright, sunny, refreshing day out on Stellwagen with Firefly and her energetic calf.

— Laura Cupicha

8/12/15

Log for August 12, 2015

Today appeared to be a day of tagged/previously tagged whales for our whale watches!

Tongs with the tag

Captain Chip and the Aurora crew, we headed near the western edge of the middle of Stellwagen along the shipping lane. When we arrived in crystal clear seas, we found three humpbacks resting at the surface, taking moderate dives. Our three humpbacks today were Nile, Timberline, and Tongs. As from our earlier report, Tongs is one of the Center for Coastal Studies’ current satellite tagged whale, as part of a study to look at the health impacts of longer-term tags (see photo of tag). 

Timberline

This research began in 2011, and Nile and Timberline were also previously tagged. You can actually observe where their tags were by the “dimple-like” scar on their flanks (see photo of Timberline).

Sea lamprey on tail

Today on my trip I also saw something I’ve never seen before on a whale – a sea lamprey! These blood-sucking parasites are occasionally seen on large whales here in the Gulf of Maine, and each time Nile fluked today we could see it dangling from her tail (see photos). 

Sea lamprey on Nile's tail...for now

These are small eel-like parasites that bite on the whale and suck blood. A few folks asked me if this was harmful for Nile – it is a parasite, but as Nile is 40-ton whale, the lamprey is nothing to worry about and will probably be shaken off her tail in a few days.

Great day on the water!

— Laura Howes

8/11/15

Log for August 11, 2015

This morning on the Cetacea, Captain Jimmy and co. weathered the wind-blown seas towards the southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank. With the seas beginning to build the further out we went, we were lucky enough to come across Jabiru and her calf 5 miles before even approaching the bank. 


This playful juvenile was rolling through and riding along the waves as mom dove to depths. Captain Jim noticed that the fish-finder showed huge shoals of fish along the ocean floor beneath us. Jabiru was likely pursuing her breakfast while the calf waited impatiently at the surface, flipper slapping and spy hopping. 


As the two slowly made their way northeast, a Cory’s and great shearwater lazily followed behind, joining the duo each time they surfaced. Perhaps they were using these whales as an indicator of where to find food. We had a glorious time watching the learning calf and lackadaisical shearwaters while also riding the waves.


We were one of the only boats to actually make it out to see whales today! What a lucky bunch! Hopefully in the coming days, the wind will die down and the seas will calm!

— Tasia

8/8/15

Log for August 8, 2015

This morning on the Asteria we travelled SE of Boston in search of whales. We were underway and only about 20 miles from the Aquarium before we spotted our first whales! We found a pair of humpback whales named Sprinkler and Sirius. 


These two were slowly traveling towards the northeast. At one point, the whales were traveling towards us and they disappeared just out of view below the surface. Before we knew it, one of the whales was directly next to the starboard bow! Everyone on the railing was soaked with whale breath, but still had smiling faces! We decided to continue on towards the bank and the trip paid off! 


Once we got there a whale breached right next to us! Our last looks were of a group of 7 whales including Bayou, Cajun, Cajun's 2015 Calf, Perseid, Jabiru, Jabiru's 2015 Calf and Pele! It was an awesome trip!!


On the sunset whale watch on the Cetacea we headed to the SW corner. There were many scattered whales, but we zeroed in on one humpback who was kick-feeding! A-plus would blow a big bubble cloud, and then come up with a few kicks before fluking and then surfaced with expanded ventral pleats. At one point, A-plus blew a bubble cloud right between the pulpits and gave everyone on the bow an unforgettable look! Later on we caught up with Sprinkler who had travelled pretty far from where we spotted this whale earlier this morning. Sprinkler was continuously flipper slapping, tail slapping and even breached once! It was a beautiful day with an amazing sunset to top it all off.


— Annie Goodenough

8/7/15

Log for August 7, 2015

Today on board the Sanctuary for our 10am whale watch, Captain Dave took us to the southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank. Once there we found 12-15 scattered humpbacks. First we stopped with Sprinkler, who was doing some fluking dives. 


Next we observed Pepper and her 2015 calf. This duo started to do some nursing so we decided to give them their space and moved about ½ a mile away to watch 6-8 other humpbacks. We were able to ID Cajun, Cajun 2015 calf, Canopy, Bayou and Perseid. These whale were splitting and joining with one another, making it a tricky day for data collection. They were swimming quickly too, maybe indicating they were chasing behind some schools of prey.


For our 2pm trip, we returned to the Southwest corner to again find 12-15 scattered humpbacks. We started, and spent the majority of the trip, with 2 groups of 4 humpbacks that were alternating times at the surface. First we would watch Pele, Canopy, Jabiru, and Jabiru’s 2015 Calf, and then Bayou, Perseid, Cajun, and Cajun’s 2015 Calf. The calves even treated us to some surface activity as we waited for the adults to resurface. 


Jabiru’s calf stole the show with lots of rolling, pec slapping, tail slapping, and even a breach or two. There were a lot of boats in the area so we decided moved a little bit west to find Sprinkler traveling alone, and Twine and Sirius traveling together. 


Sirius is a new sighting for us this season. Great to know there are some new arrivals to the bank. See attached photo of his fluke.

—Hannah Pittore

8/6/15

Log for August 6, 2015

This morning aboard the Sanctuary we were pleased to again find a plethora of humpback whales on the southwest corner. At one point, we were just surrounded by humpbacks on all sides! For a good portion of the activity, Captain Adam just kept the boat out of gear as we floated alongside swimming whales. The group composition and associations repeatedly changed as whales swam in and out of the area. 


Spending a good amount of time on dives while the calves milled at the surface, these whales were likely subsurface feeding. Among the various groups, we identified Perseid, Canopy, Hancock and calf (separately), Venom, Tear, A-Plus, Pele, Cajun and calf, Crisscross, Sundown, Sprinker and an unknown that has been around the past few days.

Venom's satellite tag

Venom was recently fitted with a satellite tag by the Center for Coastal Studies which we had a great look at today (see photo)! This tag might stay on for a couple weeks or a few months. We will continue to document these tags to help CCS assess physical and physiological responses to the tag. Take a look at the tracks here!
Peek-a-boo

Amidst the chaos, an adorable humpback popped its head out of the water seemingly to take a peek at us. Upon review of the photos, however, I realized that the little guy had his eyes closed the whole time! Nonetheless, this unique behavior gave guests a fantastic opportunity to check out its throat grooves and barnacles (see photo).


This afternoon, Connie and I switched over to the Cetacea with Captain Jim and crew and headed back to the southwest corner! Upon arrival, it was clear that the whales had spread out quite a bit. We came upon a solo calf that was soon joined by its mother, Jabiru. The two slowly made their way south as we cruised along nearby.

We then moved on to Cajun and her calf who were accompanied by Snare. The trio were taking very long dives resting at the surface between. I was very impressed with how long Cajun’s calf was able to hold her breath! As opposed to milling about at the surface waiting for mom, the calf was participating in these long-winded foraging opportunities.

As we made our way back to Boston under gorgeous sea and weather conditions, we were graced with the presence of a passing minke whale! It was an another absolutely gorgeous day on Stellwagen Bank!

— Tasia

8/4/15

Log for August 4, 2015

Today on the Asteria’s 11am trip, we headed to the SW corner of Stellwagen, once again escaping the muggy summer heat. When we arrived on the bank, we first found a pair of humpbacks slowly traveling and logging. This pair did not fluke for us, and after a few looks we decided to move on to some of the other scattered humpback activity in the area.


We found a group consisting of Perseid, Canopy, and Snare, most likely feeding below the surface. We got great looks of this trio alongside our boat, and then suddenly Perseid breached right next to us! (see photo). 


Amidst all this, we watched humpbacks Othello (aka Slugger) and Pepper and her calf pass by in the distance (they also did some tail breaching). I very much enjoyed seeing these two old veterans (Othello is a male first seen in ’78, and Pepper one of the first females named in ’76) traveling together.



As if a breach next to our boat wasn’t enough, Captain Joe squeezed in some extra time for us at the end of the trip, to watch one of our unknowns of the year do continuous tail breaching, lobtailing and flipper slapping! This was a fabulous and exciting end to our trip. 


Something interesting we also noted on the fluke of this whale was a large chunk/stalks of gooseneck barnacles attached to it. It definitely is bizarre looking!

Sincerely,

Laura Howes

***

Sometimes passengers ask us if our whale watch was a great one, but every passenger I spoke to today, especially those who had been whale watching before, told me it was the best one they’d ever been on. We headed out on the Aurora towards the southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank and quickly spotted two humpback whales. These soon dove and proceed to stay down for around 8 minutes. Not enthused by this performance we headed just a little ways farther on to the bank and spotted a mega group of quite a few animals. 



The theme of today’s sightings was quickly switching associations, fast swimming, and little fluking. All the qualities that make for exciting whale watching but terrible data collection. Despite the odds we were able to identify around half of the approximately 20 whales in the area. All together we spotted Hancock and calf, Pele, Tear, Snare, Pereid, Colt, Jabiru and calf, and Cajun and calf.



The most exciting moment of the trip came when four to five adult humpback whales swam under our bow! We got some adorable curious behavior from one of the calves and observed a great deal of social milling. I even got to see a  beautiful ring bubble blown by one of the whales below the surface. Even after going on so many whale watches myself, its one I won’t forget anytime soon. Captain Jeff certainly deserved his round of applesauce.

— Tegan and Foster

8/3/15

Log for August 3, 2015


Yesterday on board the Sanctuary for our 10am whale watch, Captain Adam and his trusty crew lead us to the Southwest Corner of Stellwagen Bank. Once there we spotted blows everywhere! First, we stopped with a lone logging humpback named Music. Then we stopped with another humpback who quickly dove, so we moved on. 


We then approached an area where there were a few other boats. First we observed Pepper and calf traveling with Othello/Slugger. Next we moved ½ mile north to whale chaos. There were 12-15 humpbacks in the area, most likely doing some subsurface feeding. We were able to ID Cajun and Calf, Hancock and calf, A-Plus, Canopy, and Tear.


On our 2pm trip, the wind picked up a lot as we returned to the southwest corner of the bank. We were immediately drawn to two surface active humpbacks. It was Jabiru and her 2015 calf. These two treated passengers to synchronized pec slapping and breaching! It was phenomenal. See attached photos of them going for a high five, as well as a few of the many breaches we saw. After a little while their behavior changed so we moved on to see what else we could watch. 


We stopped with Snare, who breached 3-4 times and then dove. We then moved to another area where there about 9-10 whales moving quickly and also being surface active. It was Tear, Cajun and calf, Hancock and calf, Pele, Sundown, Canopy, and Crisscross. 


We even witnessed multiple DOUBLE breaches! Experienced and first time whale watchers on board were thoroughly impressed with the amount activity that we saw.

— Hannah

7/31/15

Log for July 31, 2015

On Friday aboard the Asteria with Captain Deb-the whales had moved a bit closer and were in the middle of Stellwagen Bank! Not only had they moved further north but soon after we left the harbor we spotted a minke whale travelling south. This whale travelled close to the surface for a couple of minutes. Since it was early on in the trip I hadn’t yet talked to passengers about how to spot for whales-watching this minke whale gave them a great example of what they should look for!


After leaving this minke whale we travelled further east and came across Samara and Sanchal travelling together. Sanchal is actually the Hindi word for black salt. Based on this name, and quick check to confirm on our family tree, we were able to determine that Sanchal is Salt’s 2008 calf. It was great to see one of her offspring on the bank-a first for me! These two were travelling but also spent some time very close to the boat. At one point Samara surfaced off the starboard pulpit and Sanchal off the port!


Our next pair was steadily travelling Northeast and never fluked. These two were travelling about three knots in a pretty straight line-I wonder what they were headed for! We’re still working on identifying this pair but it was great to be able to show passengers two pairs of whales displaying such different behaviors.

— Annie W, Connie, and Annie T

7/29/15

Log for July 29, 2015

This morning on board the Sanctuary with Captain Tom we headed out towards the southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank. The seas were like glass today which always makes for a beautiful whale watch, we were able to spot huge flocks of Wilson’s storm-petrels resting at the surface and got beautiful reflections of their tiny bodies on the still waters. 


Apart from the awesome seabirds, we spotted several fin whales and two humpback whales. We spent most of our trip with Citation, a new whale for me, who was doing some fluking dives and rather long 5 minute dives but she wasn’t moving very much and we got some great looks at this animal. 

Citation

As we left we spotted a second humpback whale who was logging but I recognized this whale’s dorsal fin, it was Cajun! Cajun is a real favorite out here on Stellwagen Bank and we’re very excited to have her back in our waters again.

This afternoon on the 2pm trip we headed out towards the southwest corner again but didn’t spot a thing, not even a bird! So we continued east and spotted a blow just south of the south east corner. We’d obviously come to the right place because we started to see blows in every direction. In this area we spotted about 8 humpback whales and two fin whales. 


Sanchal

The humpbacks were widely scattered and not spending a lot of time at the surface so we were only able to identify Sanchal, Northstar, Nile, and possibly Tongs. Sanchal gave us some great flipper slapping and another whale did a big chin slap as a surprise off in the distance. It was a great afternoon to beat the heat and head offshore to enjoy the company of these amazing animals.

—Tegan and Maddy

***

We had a beautiful day out on the water today with calm seas.  We cruised along down the back towards the southwest corner of Stellwagen and found 3 blue sharks along the way. 3! One of the sharks we got nice look at through the clear water and it was a unique site to see that many. Once we were closer to Provincetown we found two humpbacks in the area. One of them was being a little elusive so we turned to the second humpback and were able to later identify her as Cajun!  

Cajun returns!

She is a newly-sighted whale for the season and hopefully the latest whale sightings page will be updated to proudly display her name. Cajun is a very popular female whale in our population and has been a mother in the past, so it was wonderful seeing her today!  She was definitely resting at one point and taking longer dives when she went below the surface. 

—Laura Cupicha and Cassie Murray

7/26/15

Log for July 26, 2015

This morning Megan, Cassie, and I met rocky swells on the Southwest Corner.  The Aurora came furnished with both a weathered crew and Captain Chip, a veteran of Stellwagen Bank.  Together we found ourselves on an apparent association of four humpbacks, who were traveling in a tight formation for the south. We identified Mend, Northstar, Pele and Venom as they plowed through a barrage of waves atop mighty swells.  


Cassie, our intern with prior whale watching experience in Australia, suspected a fifth whale traveling in the association, and later in the evening we discovered Milkweed's fluke among our photos! 


We were also taken aback as the whales suddenly began traveling northward in the opposite direction, a diversion in course beyond speculation!  The quintet gradually eased their travel and one individual began flipper slapping as we made our reluctant return to the mainland.




On our 3pm venture we regained our position on the Southwest Corner with the same pelagic pack of cetaceans, whose behavior was being investigated by our comrades aboard the Miss Cape Ann.  



Venom continued to exhibit an incomplete fluke while Northstar, Mend, and Pele fluked shyly with shallow dives. As we observed these four leviathans a fifth exploded out of the Atlantic only a couple body lengths from our starboard side!  Milkweed had become the true epicenter of excitement, while her fellow nomads split off to travel in a more subdued fashion.  On our departure Cassie observed a pair of humpbacks head breaching in the distance, dutifully concluding this theater of cetacean percussion on Stellwagen Bank.


Today was a rousing introduction for many fledging whale watchers, and we ourselves may never grow weary of these encounters!

— Rich