2014 Sightings | June 17

It was another beautiful day on Stellwagen Bank. We travelled out to the northwest corner of the bank but even with great viewing conditions we couldn’t find any evidence of whales. So we made our to mid-Bank near the shipping lanes.

Hancock feeding

Upon arriving in the area we spotted two animals that weren’t associated. We first decided to check out a humpack whale that we determined to be Hancock. She gave us some great looks at her expanded ventral pleats when she surface fed in her perfectly round, bright green bubble nets. Her precise 3 minute dives allowed us to accurately predict her appearances and get great looks.


The second whale in the area was taking much longer dives and traveling in a more direct fashion. We did get a good look this animal’s fluke and it was Mogul! Mogul has been seen over the past couple of days on the northwest corner but seems to be moving south. Prehaps a trend!

— Tegan, Lauren, & Haylee


On board the Aurora we headed out to the middle of Stellwagen Bank in search of whales. The wind had increased significantly since yesterday and there were quite a few white caps on the water, making it difficult to spot whales.

Finback at the surface
Throughout the trip , we did find 3-4 finback whales scattered around the bank. They all exhibited similar behaviors. They only spent one or two breaths at the surface before ducking back down and traveled very quickly. These whales were clearly on a mission to eat. In fact, the first finback whale we saw left some brown defecation at the surface which is a great sign that the whale had been feeding.

— Annie G.


This afternoon on the Cetacea, we went out to midbank where humpback whales Hancock and Mogul had been seen earlier in the day. While we didn’t see Hancock in the area, Mogul was still exhibiting the same subsurface feeding behavior we have observed over the past few days. He was making about 4-minute dives, each time surfacing with a small bubble cloud.

Mogul's dorsal fluke

Mogul's ventral fluke

While we can assume from this behavior that he is feeding lower in the water column, we can’t say for sure exactly what is going on down there! Luckily with modern technology, we can learn a great deal about subsurface behavior using digital tags known as DTAGS.

Today happens to be the first day of a tagging study being conducted by scientists from the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary in conjunction with scientists from a number of other institutions. Our very own Director of Marine Education and Conservation/Naturalist, Laura Howes, is joining them for this very exciting undertaking! They will be attaching these non-invasive, suction cup DTAGS to learn more about humpback and fin whale subsurface behavior. We are very excited about the project and hope to see the team in action!

— Tasia

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