Once we arrived at the northwest corner we found 2 scattered groups of humpbacks, totaling to 5 individuals. We began with a group of whales that we initially could not discern whether it was 2 or 3 humpbacks. As we approached we quickly recognized Northstar and Hippocampus as they took a dive.
But on the next surfacing, 3 whales popped up! The third individual with Northstar and Hippocampus was Komodo. Komodo is a new sightings for us this season! This group was taking 5 minute dives, but Komodo would only surface every other time (taking 10 minute dives).
At one point the group surfaced right in front of the boat, which excited passengers—understandably! Although we spent the majority of the trip with this trio, as we were leaving we had a quick glimpse of the two other humpbacks in the area. Thankfully Captain Deb positioned the boat in a favorable way so that we could snap a photo and ID the individuals. It was Cajun and Samara. This pair was taking longer dives, about 11 minutes. Overall, it was a beautiful day out on Stellwagen Bank.
Hannah and Haylee
|Samara and Cajun's dorsal fins|
On the 1:30 whale watch we headed towards the northwest corner were we’d heard reports of whales from earlier in the day. West of the north west corner we came across a pair of whales. The animals seemed to be logging, spending a lot of time not doing much at the surface, so while we couldn’t get an identification I was pretty sure one was Cajun based on her distinct dorsal fin shape.
|Komodo and Cajun|
Dorsal fins are not a sure fire way to identify whales but can be a good indicator of what whale you might be looking at (we did get a fluking dive later in the trip which confirmed my suspicion that this was Cajun). Cajun spent her time logging and the second whale would occasionally go down on a short non-fluking dive and occasionally a third whale would show up with this pair. The third whale turned out to by Komodo, a new whale for me this season, and she wouldn’t come up away from the pair and travel towards them but only surface right next to them despite taking much longer dives than the other two.
It’s always interesting to see whales acting outside the behaviors we usually classify as ‘associated whales’. The third whale turned out to be Samara, one of Scylla’s calves. Samara had a lot of gray pigment on the right side of her rostrum and chin area that looked like it could be covered in some sediment or perhaps a parasite or other biofilm that grows on whales. We also had a group flying a drone on board today which was able to get some really beautiful aerial footage of the whales.
|Up close with the whales|
It was a beautiful day out on the water! On our 12pm trip aboard the Aurora, we went up to the northwest corner where we found a trio of humpback whales. Cajun, Samara and Komodo were making about 6 minute dives but spending a lot of time on the surface of the water, traveling slowly west while at the surface. Each time they surfaced, they swam in the same formation, Cajun in the middle (the oldest of this trio), Samara on her left and Komodo on her right.
We noticed on a few occasions that Komodo would not surface with Cajun and Samara but rather stay submerged until the following surfacing. At times, Komodo wouldn’t come up for a breath for over 10 minutes! Komodo was exhibiting this same behavior on the 10 am trip but with a different duo which I find incredibly fascinating and slightly puzzling. From their surface behavior, it’s likely that these humpbacks were foraging, so either looking for food or actually feeding.
Today was an extra special whale watch because we got up close and personal with a blue shark! I have only seen blue sharks on Stellwagen Bank a few times and often they can be a bit shy and swim to the depths when approached. They are one of the few pelagic sharks that can be seen at Stellwagen Bank and are considered to be near threatened by the IUCN. Often these sharks are killed purely for their fins but their largest threat especially in this area is bycatch. Governor Deval Patrick this summer signed a law to ban the possession and sale of shark fins in Massachusetts. He signed the document right at The New England Aquarium! While we are a whale watch and talk primarily with our passengers about protective measures of whales, they are only one of many species that the New England Aquarium and our local government work hard to protect!
|Floating movie set!|
Star sighting in the harbor!!! On our way into Central Wharf, we passed the floating set of the second Ted movie produced by Seth McFarlane, starring Mark Wahlberg and a fuzzy teddy bear, Ted. If you take a look at the small boat on the right, you may spot the famous this famous teddy bear and a diver which may possibly be our hometown Marky Mark.