2014 Sightings | July 31

Today on board the Cetacea for the 9am whale watch, we traveled to the northwest corner. We did some searching and came across one single humpback whale. This individual was traveling quickly and taking long 8 minute dives. It never fluked for us, but after talking with the 10am whale watch, we positively identified the individual to be Rapier. Next we traveled over to check out a pair of humpbacks in the area. It was Northstar and Hippocampus. The pair was moving slowly and taking short non-fluking dives.

Our ol' friend Hippocampus

On the 1:30 trip, we went back to the northwest corner. The wind started to pick up which made searching a little tougher. After a couple minutes of scanning, we found Northstar and Hippocampus again. The pair was doing some longer dives, ranging from 6-11 minutes and doing both fluking and non-fluking dives.

Bait fish rippling on the surface

While the whales were down on a dive, we saw a large bait ball at the surface. The whales were probably taking some longer dives to feed on all the prey in the area.

— Hannah


On today’s 10am whale watch about the Asteria, we headed towards the bank, first arriving on the western edge along mid-bank to find female humpback Rapier. Rapier was traveling in the area and not fluking much, but she did grace us with one look at her tail.

Rapier's fluke

She gets the name Rapier because of the line on her left fluke that resembles the French term “Rapier,” a thin, sharp-pointed sword that was used for thrusting in swordfights.

A cloud of morning whale breath—yummy!

We then left Rapier and headed to the NW corner to find our pair of the month, Northstar and Hippocampus. At first these two were traveling slowly and doing some subsurface feeding. We also got “snarged” by Hippocampus – everyone on the bow and second deck felt the wet smelly breath, including our captain Joe!

As time started wrapping up for our final looks, Hippocampus stole the show by making some powerful repeated inverse tail breaches! It was fun to see how Hippocampus was making its own “tidal wave” each time it surfaced – its flippers would be outstretched to the sides as the tail came up. Hippocampus also display some upside-down lobtails and tailslaps too before we left! It was an exciting end to the trip, and a beautiful day on the water.

— Laura


Hippocampus splash

We had our two regulars out and about today on the bank, Hippocampus and Northstar! After feeding quite a bit yesterday, this duo spent most of today’s trip logging. Hippocampus was active a few times and even gave us three separate tail breaches which was very exciting for passengers! I captured literally the tail end of one of these breaches which was mostly just a huge splash!

Northstar on the mend

As Northstar injuries heal, we will continue to document it’s progress! Take a look at these photos of the wound which appears to be healing well!

— Tasia


2014 Sightings | July 30

This morning on board the Aurora, we travelled out to the northwest corner of Stellwagen Bank! There was lots of activity out there today! Throughout the trip, we got great looks at three pairs of adult humpbacks! The pairs included Alphorn and Music (both new sightings for this season), Scratch and Conflux and, of course Northstar and Hippocampus!

Music's fluke

It was great to see some new whales in the area! Throughout the trip, all the activity was concentrated within one square mile. The most exciting part of the trip was one of our last looks. Since the water was so calm, it was easy for us to spot every disturbance on the water so we saw the full extent of Northstar’s awesome bubble spiral ring right next to our boat!

Northstar surfacing

It was a great look, and everyone was so excited to see Northstar and Hippocampus coming up to the surface.

It was a beautiful morning with plenty of whales!

— Annie G.


Calm waters are just perfect for whale watching

Today we headed out to the northwest corner in beautiful weather conditions. Light winds and calm seas made for a beautiful opportunity to see a variety of marine life. On the corner we quickly spotted a pair of humpback whales. Northstar and Hippocampus—what are the chances?!

Scratch and Conflux

These two whales were engaged in some great bubble feeding activity however the animals were feeding below the surface and only surfacing in order to get a few breaths of air before their next foraging foray! We had spotted a few more blows on our way into the area so were very happy to have a pair of humpbacks, Scratch and Conflux, cross our bow and join very briefly with Northstar and Hippocampus.

A lonesome whale

Northstar headed off with the new pair and Hippocampus trailed behind. But never fear on the next surfacing Northstar and Hippocampus were once again back together. We also spotted another pair of humpbacks, bringing out total to 6 animals, a little ways off and were able to identify them as Alphorn and Music!

The birds were out in force and we saw gulls, shearwaters, juvenile gannets, and even a swallow all the way out to sea.

A Cory's shearwater

It was as ever, a beautiful day on Stellwagen Bank.



Today on board the Aurora for the 1:30 whale watch, we traveled to the northwest corner of Stellwagen Bank like our earlier trips had. Once there we found four scattered humpback whales.

Alphorn fluke

First we saw Alphorn traveling alone, but then quickly spotted Northstar and Hippocampus close by. The pair of Northstar and Hippocampus joined and split from Alphorn on multiple occasions. The group even surfaced in unison after we saw a large bubble cloud formed under the surface.


Northstar and Alphorn

Alphorn, as well as Northstar, has some large scars from past injuries. See attached photos of Alphorn’s left dorsal fin, fluke, and it swimming with Northstar. We also spotted another humpback about 1 mile away that turned out to be Music. All of the whales that were in the area were taking short dives, averaging about 3-6 minutes, as well as doing some high fluking dives.

— Hannah


2014 Sightings | July 29

Today was a whale of a day out on Stellwagen Bank. Both our 9:00 and 1:30 trips on the Aurora got to spend some quality quiet time with our old friend, Northstar and Hippocampus. Old is relative, seeing as these two whales were first spotted within the last ten years and we believe that humpback whales could have very long lifespans – up to 100 years perhaps!

Hippocampus's fluke

Both whales were taking fluking dives and spent about five minutes under water. Their dives lasted a little longer when we saw them in the afternoon—they were quite possibly feeding deeper in the water column! We name humpback whales for the patterns on their tails and sometimes it can be very easy to see why a whale got its name and sometimes, like Hippocampus, it can be really hard. Hippocampus is a part of the brain but it is also the genus for the seahorses. If you look closely at the bottom right of Hippocampus’ fluke you might because to see a black mark that looks a little like a seahorse. A stretch? Maybe but naming whales is tricky business and with some many whales named already we have to get more and more creative.

Hippocampus dorsal fin

All in all it was lovely to see that these two individuals have spent so much time together recently.

— Tegan & Grace


Today on board the Asteria we travelled to the Northwest corner of Stellwagen Bank! After a bit of searching we happened upon two familiar humpbacks. It turned out to be Northstar and Hippocampus.

Northstar's fluke

Throughout the trip, they surfaced together, however on a few occasions they surfaced separately. They were taking 5-8 minute dives today. Towards the end of  the trip, Hippocampus started making bubble rings.

Northstar's injury

Unfortunately Northstar’s injury is still pretty prevalent. Some of the kids on board were very interested in this injury. One younger passenger in particular thought it would be a good idea if his dad got jets for their boat instead of propellers! Overall it was a beautiful sunny day out on the water!

—Annie G.



2014 Sightings | July 28

Today aboard the Asteria for the 10AM whale watch, we travelled up to the northwest corner of Stellwagen Bank. Despite the rain and fog we experienced while boarding, the skies cleared up as we headed toward the bank, and it turned out to be a beautiful day on the water!


Out of the haze we spotted the Cetacea, which was watching two humpback whales. This pair turned out to be Northstar and Hippocampus. These whales were consistently taking 4 and a half minute dives, giving passengers great looks at their flukes and of Northstar’s injured dorsal.

Northstar's fin on the mend

While these whales were taking synchronized dives, they sometimes surfaced apart from one another, but continually rejoined as a pair. We still do not fully understand the social behaviors of these whales and their seemingly fluid associations. Northstar and Hippocampus have been traveling and feeding together since last Thursday and are an example of the longer term associations we do commonly see here on the feeding ground.

 Lady Maryland

As an added bonus for the day the very pretty sailing vessel the Lady Maryland passed us in the mist while we watched our pair of whales.

It turned out to be a phenomenal day to be out on the water!

— Tegan, Kira and Kirsten


On today’s 12pm whale watch aboard the Aurora, our Captain Chip led us to the NW corner of Stellwagen in search of whales. Despite the many whitecaps – we were able to spot the blows of several whales today!

Note the chevron pattern on this fin whale

We first found a pair of traveling fin whales, and observed their two different chevron patterns on their right side. They also varied in length – the whale trailing behind the first fin whale was quite large! These markings are used to identify unique individuals in the population, as part of the North Atlantic Fin Whale Catalog held up in Allied Whale in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Northstar's dorsal injury continues to heal

We then moved on to find two adult humpbacks – Northstar and Hippocampus, who were traveling slowly though the area. We observed Northstar’s dorsal injury – it is great to be able to keep seeing this male humpback in order to track the progression of how this wound is healing. We send photos of any whales that are injured or appear unhealthy to the Center for Coastal Studies, based in Provincetown, Mass.

Ready for their close-up
Hippocampus's fluke

On our last looks of this pair, these two approached our boat to give us an up-close and personal look! We also spotted a Minke whale, making it a three species day!

— Laura


Sightings 2014 | July 27

This morning on board the Cetacea we headed out to the northwest corner of Stellwagen Bank. At the beginning of our trip, we spent some time with Northstar and Hippocampus who were traveling ever so slowly together. The anticipation to see the see these whales fluke was intense because they were spending quite a bit of time breathing at the surface and would take very shallow dives without fluking. Once the whales finally showed us their tails, the passengers showed their excitement!

Hippocampus breach

After watching these two for a while, we moved over to another couple of whales in the area. It turned out to be Perseid and calf! These two were traveling very quickly compared to the first two whales we were watching. In fact, we watched them for a half hour and during that time they traveled a few miles! Captain Gene reported to me that we were traveling alongside them matching their speed at about 3.5 knots. They were definitely doing some linear traveling south southeast of the northwest corner. We’ll have to see where this pair is spotted next!

Hippocampus fluke

This afternoon we traveled out the Northwest Corner of Stellwagen Bank once again. The weather was not quite as pleasant on our way out because of the rain. In the rain and fog, we were able to find a few whale watch boats who were watching Northstar and Hippocampus.

Northstar breach

After a couple of looks, we decided to travel around the area to see if there were any other whales nearby. We searched for a while in the rain. Some of our very dedicated passengers stayed outside with ponchos to endure the cold rain in hopes of sightings. We came up short on our search, so we travelled back to finish our whale watch with the original pair, and boy were we lucky to see them again! The rain finally cleared up and after just a few minutes of watching this pair, both of them breached consecutively right between our boat and the Miss Cape Anne!

Hippocampus flipper slapping

For the rest of the trip, Hippocampus was very surface-active and continued to flipper-slap and breach! We had some truly amazing looks at these whales today!

Have a great evening!

— Annie G.


On the 10am trip aboard the Aurora, we headed to the NW corner to where our 9am trip had been – and found our dynamic duo Northstar and Hippocampus working together to bubble net feed. We also spotted a minke whale in the mix today, as well as wilson’s storm petrels, sooty & great shearwaters, and laughing gulls near the end of the trip.

Northstar and Hippocampus

Male humpback Northstar and unknown gender Hippocampus were coordinating their movements to corral the fish under the water (see photo of synchronized surfacing). Near the end of the morning’s trip, these two began to get a bit more active at the surface, and Northstar began to flipper slap and roll along his side at the two surfaced with food in their mouth (see photo).


For our afternoon 3pm trip, we headed back to the same area, and luckily managed to avoid the rain! We arrived to find Northstar and Hippocampus tailbreaching in the distance, and then Hippocampus displayed some excellent flipper slapping!

Hippocampus flipper slap

This whale even surprised us with a quick half-breach.

Hippocampus breach

Afterwards this pair began taking longer dives and subsurfacely feed. Hippocampus made some high flukes, and we also observed Northstar’s recent injury near his dorsal fin.

Hippocampus' fluke

Northstar shows off the injury to its dorsal fin

— Laura


Today on board the Asteria for 12pm whale watch, we traveled to the northwest corner in the pouring rain but didn’t have much luck there. So we kept searching along the western edge of the bank and finally found a lone humpback just north of mid-bank. The individual’s long 6-8 minutes dives, allowed us to identify the animal. It was Abrasion! This is the first time we’ve seen her this season.

Aprasion's fluke

On the 5:30 trip, the rain clouds parted for some much deserved sunshine as we left Boston. We went back to the northwest corner again. Almost immediately, we spotted a mother and calf pair. It was Nile and her 2014 calf!

Nile's playful calf belly-up

The calf was being very “playful” at the surface. Time and time again it rolled around at the surface, slapping its flippers and throwing its tail out of the water.

Nile's calf's fluke

Passengers were even treated to a full breach from the calf. On multiple occasions Nile even got involved and showed the calf how a real tail lob was done. It was a great evening trip.

— Hannah and Rich


2014 Sightings | July 26

This morning on board the Cetacea we headed out to the northwest corner of Stellwagen Bank. We started our trip out with a familiar pair: Hippocampus and Northstar! These two were likely doing some subsurface feeding. They consistently surfaced together and gave passengers wonderful looks at their flukes. 

Hippocampus fluke

Later in the trip, we moved over to get some looks at other whales in the area. There was a group of four whales that turned out to be Nile and calf and Perseid and calf! It was great to see these four whales all associated. Unfortunately though, it was pretty crowded around this group with lots of other boats coming in closer to take a look. Hopefully boaters in the area understand the negative impact their overbearing presence can be. Northstar’s recent scarring is certainly evidence of this. We spotted a few juvenile northern gannets though and had a lovely day!

This afternoon we headed out to the same area. This seems to be a productive spot because the whales barely moved at all between our trips! We started off this trip with some awesome bubble net feeding from Hippocampus and Northstar.

Hippocampus and Northstar

It was super exciting to see these whales forming bubble nets right next to our boat! After spending some time with these two peas-in-a-pod, we decided to travel over to check out some other activity in the area which turned out to be Nile and Calf and Perseid and calf once again!

Nile's calf
Nile's calf breaching!

This time around though Nile’s calf was being very surface-active. We were treated to lots of exciting breaches and tail breaches from Nile’s calf. I was a bit worried at one point in the trip because Perseid’s calf was nowhere in sight. Not to worry though, it seems as though Perseid’s calf is becoming bit more independent and might not be spending as much time alongside Perseid.

Too often picking up balloons from the sea

At the end of the trip, we did our good deed for the day by picking up some balloons that we found near the whales!

— Annie G.


It was a gorgeous day on the water today and there were plenty of whales! We found Nile, Perseid and each of their calves up on the northwest corner of the bank this afternoon on our 12pm trip. Though we can’t see what’s going on beneath the ocean’s surface, it appeared as if Nile and Perseid were doing some subsurface feeding.

Nile and calf

While Nile and Perseid consistently made about 7 minute dives, the calves always surfaced independently a few minutes prior to their mothers. This pattern is likely because calves can’t hold their breath for quite as long as mature whales.

Nile with calf below

We really had exceptionally close looks of these mothers and their calves today as they swam right under and across our bow! It was absolutely beautiful!

Northstar and Hippocampus

Nearby, Northstar and Hippocampus, who have remained together over the past few days, were bubble net feeding! We noticed that Northstar usually surfaced first through this bubble ring followed by Hippocampus seconds behind. On one occasion, Hippocampus even surfaced with his/her mouth wide open!

Northstar filtering

What was most fascinating about this sequence was Northstar’s method of filtering. With each lunge out of the water, Northstar flipped over onto his/her back, pleats up and fluke out of the water, filtering out the fish through his/her baleen.

Northstar rolling (a sex shot of the whale's ventral surface)

This gave me the perfect opportunity to take what we call a “sex shot”, a photo of a whale’s ventral surface, in order to determine whether they are male or female. From the photo, I would say that Northstar is male but I definitely need a second opinion.

Northstar and Hippocampus

It was really great to see Northstar being so active and healthy today! As long as his wounds heal well without getting infected, it looks like Northstar might have a miraculous recovery!

— Tasia Blough


Today on board the Asteria, on the 10am watch we ventured out to the northwest corner of Stellwagen to find a bundle of humpback whales. We started with a the pair of Northstar and Hippocampus who we’ve been seeing a lot of over the past few days. Northstar has a nasty injury to his or her’s dorsal fin which does seem to be healing well but we’re all glad to be seeing this whale so we can keep an eye on its recovery.

Calf breach

But today’s trip was all about calves. We moved on to Nile and Perseid who were together with both their calves. While Nile’s calf stuck pretty close to mom today, Perseid’s calf was being quite the little star/whale of the day for us.

Calf feeding behavior

Practice makes perfect

This calf spent a bit of time checking out the boat and then moved off quite far from mom and was mimicking a variety of adult feeding behaviors from open mouth to forming bubbles and possible skim feeding. Calves that come to Stellwagen with their mothers are in the first year of their lives and must learn how to feed, dive and forage for food during that one year before they are off on their own. It was exciting to see Perseid’s calf being independent and practicing these behaviors on its own.

Calf breaching

On the 3pm watch we returned to the Northwest Corner to find the Nile and calf, Perseid and calf, Northstar, and Hippocampus, the same whales we saw in the morning, only all of them were breaching in every directions! The calves stole the show with their multiple breaches and tail breaches and Nile’s calf was doing some very high lobtails, almost as if it was doing a whale headstand underwater!

Nile's calf's tail

It was amazing to see these calves being really curious of our boat and doing a range of surface active behaviors while also observing some full breaches from Northstar and Hippocampus in the distance. It was another great day out on Stellwagen to observe these energetic humpback whales!

— Tegan, Charlotte and Haylee


Tonight on the 5:30 whale watch we headed towards the northwest corner where we found Nile and her calf.  The calf breached from a distance away and then once we got to the pair, Nile started rolling belly up and flipper slapping!

Nile flipper slapping

This is my favorite behavior to watch and Nile was doing some double-flipper slaps, with both flippers held high in the air.  She also did a couple of tail breaches!

Double flipper slaps

I was waiting for the calf to start playing too but she seemed tired and the commotion slowed down.

Nile and calf logging

The calf then started logging along the surface with Nile right alongside. Logging is great to see because these animals are exhibiting their natural behavior and the calf needs to rest frequently in order to stay healthy and grow.


We stayed on Nile and her calf for most of the trip until we saw a few breaches about 3 miles away. It turned out to be Northstar and Hippocampus!  Northstar was the one doing the breaching but stopped once we got close. Hippocampus was being more elusive and Northstar was at the surface more frequently, but I would still say that they were associated while traveling. They were moving north alongside a beautiful sunset as we left for the evening.

There were also a few flocks of turns, manx and sooty shearwaters, as well as common gulls seen during the trip. It was a beautiful evening on Stellwagen!

— Laura