2013 Sightings | October 26

Today on the Aurora we headed back up north towards Thacher Island. We had another great day of whales! It was a bit windy and choppy but we were able to find humpbacks Echo and Nile and spend lots of time with them. The pair was surfacing and fluking side-by-side, deep feeding and traveling a bit.

While observing these two, we had two minkes pop up nearby. During the latter portion of the trip, we saw a spout in the distance, so we tried to make out way over and get a closer look, but the whale never showed itself.

At this point, it was time to turn back to Boston, and as we were leaving another pair of humpbacks fluked in the distance! It was a quick look and too far away to identify, but it was great to know there were so many whales scattered about the area. Total whales today included two minkes, two pairs of humpbacks, and an unidentified larger whale.


2013 Sightings | October 23

Today on the Cetacea we headed north toward Thacher Island in search of whales. We started off with a quick sighting of a small pod of harbor porpoise off Gloucester. There were also lots of Northern gannets in the area—another good sign! Next we saw a spout up ahead, just north of Thacher Island.
The humpback whale fluked in the distance and we were able to quickly identify it as a familiar whale named Echo. We spend a good amount of time with Echo as see was fluking and deep feeding consistently.

Spar (right) and her calf with unusual scars
While observing her, we noticed a pair of humpbacks about a half mile from us, so we moved over to them after great looks with Echo. The pair turned out to be Spar and her calf! Spar’s calf has a distinct injury to her dorsal side, with a bit clipped off her fin, as well as a chunk missing just behind that. These two were deep feeding as well, with varied dive times. Also in the mix was a minke whale about 1/8 of a mile away and approximately three scattered harbor seals!

Owl's calf's fluke

We heard rumors over the radio of a SECOND mother calf pair in the area so we moved a couple miles away to find humpback whale Owl and calf!  Owl’s calf was busy rolling and flipper slapping for a small whale watch vessel nearby.  It was great for passengers to see different behaviors from a calf in one trip.  We got some nice looks at Owl’s fluke and her calf also did a nice tail flick for us.

Owl's scar is visible

Owl has some deep scarring on her dorsal side.  It is unfortunate to see significant scarring on two whales in the same trip, but it is a reminder we share space with them and brings up great discussion on conservation measures. This fall has been excellent and we hope it keeps up for as long as possible!


2013 Sightings | October 11

This afternoon on the Aurora we headed back to where all the whale action yesterday was. When we arrived near Thacher’s, we found Valley and calf traveling slowly together, taking moderate dives.

Valley and her calf (in foreground)

Valley's fluke

Valley’s calf was resting a bit today, bobbing at the surface while Valley would dive deeper. We then observed some nursing behavior, as the calf alternated sides alongside Valley, and a few times it turned on its side. After a brief bit of nursing, the calf rolled a bit and rested more at the surface. Great to see this growing calf (it has definitely been getting big!), lounging peacefully today.

Valley's calf nursing

Valley's calf rolling onto its side

We also spotted a harbor seal pup (now on its own after weaning from its mother in early summer) during our trip as well, and another larger adult resting as we left Valley and calf.

Seal pup


2013 Sightings | October 10

This afternoon on the Asteria we headed north towards Thacher Island off Cape Ann in search of whales and had some great luck!

The rake marks on the lower left portion of Echo's fluke resemble the sound waves of an echo.

Just northeast of Thacher, we found two groups of humpback whales!  We started off observing a trio that included Pinball, Echo and Putter.  The three humpbacks were deep feeding and coming up side-by-side, all fluking nicely for us!

Valley and her calf

We got some very nice looks at this group before moving on to a pair of humpbacks in the distance (about a half mile from the other group). It ended up being Valley and her calf! They were deep feeding as well and taking 3-7 minute dives.

It was a great fall trip – you can’t complain when your biggest problem is deciding which whales to observe first!


2013 Sightings | October 4

Today aboard the Asteria, we had some luck up North near Thacher Island today. When we arrived, we found Nile and Patchwork (unknown gender, first seen in 1997) traveling slowly together and resting at the surface. 

Flipper slapping in unison

A short time later, Patchwork and Nile started becoming quite active, flipper slapping on their sides. They even began some synchronized flipper slapping, with Nile mostly belly up double-flipper slapping the majority of the time! 

Nile in foreground, flipper slapping in synchrony with Patchwork

The pair than each tail breached next to the boat, then went back to slapping near the end of the trip, before they began to log as we started to leave. 

Flukes in tandem

Exciting day on the water despite the rain, and very interesting behaviors observed today – Nile was a bit tactile with her flipper slapping against Patchwork, and Patchwork was also covered a bit in seaweed (perhaps playing in it) and spy-hopping. We also had a brief look at a minke making it a two-species day.

Here are some photos of all the action today!

Patchwork's fluke

Nile's "armpit"

Nile's splash


2013 Sightings | October 2

Today on the Aurora we had quite the luck! Early on, before we even arrived at Stellwagen, our Capt. Chip spotted a blow of humpback in the area. Thanks to this close whale we were able to spend quite a bit of time with this individual.

It took a while, but we eventually ID'd this young whale as Scylla's calf, born in 2012

This whale was quite small and didn’t fluke much, and for its size appeared to be a juvenile. This whale would only surface once and then quickly turn a different direction, but I was able to get a few ID shots. Checking the databases, we matched this youngster to Scylla's 2012 calf! We spent a lot of time with Scylla and her 2012 calf last season, good to see this calf on it's own this fall! It's fluke has changed quite a bit since last year as well!

Scylla's 2012 calf

Luckily this whale didn’t travel far so we got some great looks, and the individual also made a few small bubble clouds which was an interesting behavior to observe. A few gannets nearby and a minke passed by briefly, for an overall great day in early October!