2013 Sightings: May 31

We headed north-east out of Boston on the Aurora today to the waters near Cape Anne. There we were able to get great looks at a humpback whale, Pinball. Pinball, who is a female humback born in 1989, was using the same low bubble clouds to feed that we’ve been seeing over the past few days—lunging below the surface out of sight, but leaving a cloud of bubbles at the surface.

Pinball’s unique and asymmetrical fluke pattern

We also saw some lunge feeding minke whales in the distance. Overall the day was a great respite from the heat on land, and a perfect opportunity to see some close up whale behavior.



2013 Sightings: May 30, 12 pm

Today on the Aurora we saw 3 minkes, 2 finbacks, and 1 humpback whale. We had a finback whale pop up in front of us as we headed out to Stellwagen Bank. We then continued out to the middle of Stellwagen Bank and found two minke whales deep feeding and changing course a lot.

We next found a single humpback whale named Diablo who was taking pretty short dives and changing direction very rapidly. She even surfaced with water spilling out of her mouth indicating that she was in fact deep feeding.

Diablo is 30 years old and was born to a whale named Five-J. We got some great looks of her as she continuously surfaced really close to the boat. A fin and minke whale surface a little further away.



2013 Sightings: May 29, 12 pm

Aurora’s noon whale watch was a great trip, despite some unexpected weather and fog toward the north end of Stellwagen bank. We were able to find two or three humpbacks in the area, but spent most of our time with one deep feeding humpback named Diablo.

Diablo's fluke

Diablo is a female born in 1983 that we saw on the 10 am trip on the Aurora yesterday. She is traveling solo this season but had a calf in 2012 and 2010. Diablo is recognized by some scarring on her right side by her dorsal fin, as well as her very dark tail. She is usually shy to fluke, but our last looks with Diablo included a beautiful look at the underside of her tail – a great ending to the trip! There were about 2 or 3 deep feeding minke whales in the area as well, and some good looks at Northern gannets.

-- Christine

2013 Sightings: May 29, 10 am

We were able to find several whales on the Asteria today, despite the unexpectedly windy weather. There were three to four humpbacks and one minke whale in the area.

We spent most of our time with Shuffleboard, a humpback whale first seen in 2008. Shuffleboard was taking very short dives and using low bubble clouds to feed underneath the water, coming up to the surface regularly and giving us great looks at its tail while diving.



2013 Sightings: May 28, 10am

Today on the Aurora’s 10:00 am whale watch, we ventured to the northern portion of Stellwagen bank and observed three different species of large whales. Seas were flat calm and we were able to spot several deep feeding minke whales quickly and easily. At least five of these small, ‘shy’ individuals popped up here and there throughout the trip.

Diablo. Do you see her scar?

We spotted a blow in the distance and found a slowly traveling humpback whale that we identified as a female named Diablo. Diablo is a type 5 humpback with a very dark fluke and was in the area with a calf last year. Tegan, our research intern, recognized her by a scar next to her dorsal fin on the right side.

Diablo is reluctant to show her fluke when she dives, but we were able to get a few pictures of the underside today to confirm her identity during the trip. Diablo began taking longer dives and changing direction – a sign she was sub-surface feeding. She gave the passengers great close-to-boat looks and surprised us all with a huge tail breach, slapping the surface and showing off her dark fluke.  We finished the trip with a pair of finbacks deep feeding that we found right before we had to turn back to Boston.  There were a few other large whales spotted from a distance – possibly another finback and one or two solo humpbacks.

Diving gannets and some harbor porpoise showed up today as well, which is a good indication of food in the area.

-- Christine

2013 Sightings: May 28, 12pm

The Asteria had a great day on the water. The seas were calm, and there were many Northern gannets as well as several different species of gulls in the area. Passengers enjoyed seeing several species of whale—while we spent most of our time with a humpback, there was a fin whale traveling not too far off from us most of the time, and a minke whale popped up right next to our humpback, and close to the boat.

Springboard's fluke

Our humpback whale was female Springboard, who was first seen in 1997. Springboard was feeding using a low bubble cloud, lunging below the water out of sight, but surfacing regularly and fairly close to our boat.



2013 Sightings: May 27, 10 am and 3 pm

This morning’s 10 am whale watch on the Aurora started with a humpback whale in Boston Harbor!

Juvenile whale in Boston Harbor

The 9 am whale watch also observed this juvenile whale near Logan Airport.  By the time we headed out the whale was near Deer Island and there were three Massachusetts Environmental Police boats nearby to monitor the whale and keep small recreational boats away from the animal. Laura was on the trip with me and was able to get a photo of the whale fluking near Deer Island.

Finback whales are the only asymmetrically-colored mammals in the world!

We observed for a short time and decided to head to the north portion of Stellwagen Bank, where we found a deep feeding finback whale. The passengers got great looks at the bright white jaw of the finback and the unique chevron pattern on the side of the animal that is unique to each individual (this is the only asymmetrically colored mammal – the left side of the finback is a darker grey).  See the attached photo of the finback’s right side (you can see the white lower jaw, as well as the swirling grey chevron on the side).  An exceptionally rare and exciting start to the day!

On the Aurora's 3 pm whale watch, we did not see the humpback in the harbor and continued to the north portion of Stellwagen Bank. We started off with great looks at two to three minke whales and moved on to observe a single deep feeding humpback that was staying close to the boat and giving the passengers great looks! There was also a second humpback and a single finback whale in the distance.  Finally some great weather and in perfect time for the holiday.

Overall, a great day and looking forward to more soon!

-- Christine Palmeri

2013 Sightings: May 27, 9 am and 2 pm

The Asteria had a very exciting start to the day. Upon arriving at the dock, I was informed that the Salacia had sighted a juvenile humpback in Boston Harbor. On our way out on the 9 a.m. trip, we stopped and observed the animal for about 20 minutes. 

Juvenile whale in Boston Harbor

The juvenile whales (estimated length 20-30 ft) was off Spectacle Island heading outward bound. It was observed to be thin, with a moderate cyamid lode on the blowhole. From what we saw there was no evidence of entangling line. Although the whale did appear to have healed entanglement scars on the caudal peduncle. This is not unusual, studies have shown that about 80-90% of the whales we see show signns of previous entanglement. The animal did have the Environmental Police maintaining and exclusion zone around it. 

Juvenile whale in Boston Harbor

With that we headed out the the southern edge of Stellwagen, searched the entire southern edge, then headed up the western edge of the Bank. Right near the end of the trip, we caught a few distant glances of a fin whale that was moving very quickly. Rain checks were issued for this trip.

The 2 pm trip headed up to the northwestern corner of Stellwagen. We encountered several minke whales, one which even circled the boat giving passengers some great looks at these often cryptic animals. We then found a single fin whale that was doing some short dives, and included one surfacing very close to the boat. 

These pictures are of the juvenile humpback whale in Boston Harbor. In the one you can see Spectacle Island in the back, and the second with Long Island in the background.

-- Ulrika


2013 Sightings: May 24, 12 pm

Today on the Aurora we did not find any whales. We searched the northern portion of Stellwagen bank, as well as some waters northeast of the bank. We did see some a few Northern gannets, and a lone Manx shearwater—hopefully a portent of some better fish productivity and whale sightings in our future.



2013 Sightings: May 21, 10 am

On the 10:00 am whale watch on the Asteria, we traveled through thick fog to the southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank. As we approached the area where we have been viewing whales recently, the fog lifted and we had visibility for miles!

Falcon completing a terminal, or sounding, dive

There were a total of 6–8 feeding humpback whales (alone or in groups of 2–3) close to the boat during the trip. There were approximately 15 humpbacks in the area, with several blows and some surface feeding observed in the distance. We also got great looks at minke whales deep feeding and popping up all around us (at least 5 nearby). There was an abundance of diving gannets and a also a couple of great looks FROM grey seals next to the boat. Lots of food in the area = a good show!

There was plenty of surface activity to be observed, including kick feeding and bubble feeding. We got great looks at 33 year-old Falcon’s fluke (scarred with rake marks from orca teeth). You can see the distinct ‘trailing edge’ on the top part of Falcon’s fluke. This is one way researchers identify individual humpbacks.

Later on, dynamic duo Zeppelin and Fracture showed up together again, diving in sync and surface feeding. Zeppelin is a female and the 1989 calf of Milky Way. She has been consistently rolling on her side while bubble feeding, showing off one side of her lovely black fluke with splashes of white.  Looking forward to more great trips!

-- Christine Palmeri


2013 Sightings: May 20

Today on the Aurora we headed down to the southwestern corner of Stellwagen (our new favorite place!!). We were treated to sightings of about 20 humpback whales, 4-5 minke whales, 3-4 gray seals and lots of diving northern gannets. We spent some time with a large group of 7 (Perseid, Falcon, Jabiru, Eruption, Aerospace and 3 unknowns).

Bubble clouds from feeding right whales
The group was deep feeding, which included one surfacing right by the port bow. There were several groups of singles and doubles all around us as well. We spent some time with a mom and calf, mom didn’t fluke, so no id as of yet. We finished our trip with some great close feeding bouts of Zeppelin and Fracture, who were doing some bubble cloud feeding. Zeppelin has an amazing feeding strategy of surfacing through the bubble cloud and rolling onto her side.

Fracture and Zeppelin surfacing through a bubble cloud with Zeppelin rolling onto her side

To those long in the industry, you may recognize those names. Apparently there was a season back in the 90s (before my time) where Zeppelin & Fracture were the only 2 whales on Stellwagen Bank, and many a whale trips were saved by this pair.

Gray seals
-- Ulrika