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

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