2014 Sightings | June 19

This morning the Asteria headed out to the Southern edge of Stellwagen Bank. As soon as we crossed over onto the bank we sighted a finwhale!

Finback whale

Within a 100 yard radius of the finwhale there were at least three minke whales as well. The seas were as calm as glass which made it easy to spot the minke whales popping in the distance. After spending some time with the finback whale, we traveled further in search of humpbacks.

Hancock, the female humpback

Eventually we found a female humpback named Hancock. Hancock has been spotted frequently the past few weeks. There were 3 different school groups on board today and they all were very interested in Hancock’s fluke and how she got her name. It is a bit like working in forensics when we match flukes. They are a lot like fingerprints! Hancock spent most of the trip doing relatively short 3 minute dives. Occasionally she would trick us by fluking and then resurfacing just moments later!

— Annie G.


This afternoon on the northwest corner of Stellwagen Bank we got to see a humpback whale named Diablo! Born in 1983 to a whale named Five-J, this 31 year old female was making about six minute dives and spending little time at the surface of the water. But we got to see her beautiful, all black fluke each time she dove.

A dive by Diablo

Flukes range from being all white to all black on a scale from 1 to 5 respectively so we call all black flukes type 5 flukes. A week ago today, I reported seeing a humpback with a type 5 fluke that we were unable to identify. We later identified that whale as a whale named Blackout. Throughout the identification process, we considered Conflux and Ebony as possibilities. Ironically, Ebony was Blackout’s mother and Conflux is one of Diablo’s offspring. All four have entirely black flukes!

Diablo's black fluke — A type 5

While we are not certain what determines the color of a whale’s fluke, the fact that these two mother calf pairs both have all black flukes could indicate either an environmental or genetic pigmentation source. It will be interesting to see in the coming years if our research of these individuals will contribute to solving this puzzle!

Diablo's dorsal fin

— Tasia


It was a fantastic day out on the Northwest corner of Stellwagen bank. We went to the location of where our 12pm trip had seen whales. Once there we found Diablo, a 31 year old female humpback whale.

Diablo breach

At first she seemed to be in more of a relaxed state, taking 4-6 minute shallow dives. Then all of a sudden she did a full breach about 150 yards off the port bow. Passengers cheered in excitement! Breaching is a rare behavior that every whale watcher hopes to see. I happen to catch this amazing acrobatic breach from Diablo.

Double pectoral flipper slapping

She then continued being surface active while treating passengers to about 20 minutes of pectoral slapping.

Another pectoral slap: You can see how flexible humpback flippers are even though they have bones in them

After reviewing the data that we have about Diablo, I noticed that she has a had a calf for past several years (2008, 2010, 2012). Knowing what we know about humpback’s pregnancy, that females have a calf every 2-3 years, I hypothesize that she could be pregnant this year! Also if you look back at the breach photo that I took during the trip, you’ll notice that she seems to be a bit big. Hopefully we’ll see Diablo with a calf next season.

Diablo's pectoral flipper

— Hannah

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