2014 Sightings | September 29

This afternoon we headed up to Jeffrey’s Ledge in search of whales. Just as we were passing Thatcher’s Island we spotted to blows just a quarter of a mile to our right. These whales turned out to be Orbit and Slingshot.

Valley's fluke

This pair of humpbacks was traveling together at the surface, probably doing some subsurface feeding after diving down. It was easy to tell these two whales apart at the surface because Slingshot has some very white scarring along it’s back and dorsal fin. This could possibly be from an entanglement.

Valley's tailstock

Eventually, we saw a couple of different blows in the distance so we decided to see what else was in the area. It turned out to be another pair of humpbacks, this time it was Valley and Sickle. I recognized Valley almost immediately due to her lack of dorsal fin.

Valley and Sickle dorsal fins (or lack thereof)

These two were traveling very slowly at the surface. Whenever Valley would take a dive, she would fluke almost in slow motion. It looked like a lot of effort to bring her thick tail-stock into the air. This pair was great to watch, and with our last looks they started moving close to our boat! They travelled slowly right off our starboard side. There was another humpback sighted in the distance at the end of the trip, but we had to head back to Boston. Looks like Jeffrey’s Ledge has been a popular spot recently!

— Annie G


2014 Sightings | September 28

This morning we headed about 42 miles Southeast to the eastern edge of Stellwagen Bank! After searching around quite a bit we found a minke whale. After watching this minke for a little bit, we were able to get some looks at a humpback whale in the area. We really lucked out this trip because the humpback turned out to be, the one and only, COLT!

Cold wows passengers with a swim by

Colt is a famous whale on Stellwagen for being a particularly curious whale and today was no exception! Our first look at Colt was literally right along the side of our boat! The whale ducked underneath and then surfaced again on the other side.

Curious Colt

Every time this whale was up at the surface, we had no problem finding it because it surfaced SO close! It was an extremely unique experience spending time with this very curious humpback!

Rainbow blow by Colt

This afternoon we decided to go to an area a bit closer to Boston. We ended up travelling along the north shore up to Jeffrey’s Ledge. While in this area there were 5-6 humpbacks. We spent time with Nike, Slingshot and Gladiator, which are all whales that I have never seen before!


It’s great adding new flukes to my memory! These whales were joining and splitting quite a bit in the beginning of our trip, but by the end we spent most of our time with Gladiator and Slingshot who were taking relatively short 3-4 minute dives moving around randomly, likely subsurface feeding.

We had a gorgeous day out on the water with nearly, flat-calm seas, clear skies and awesome whales!

— Annie G.


Today on board the Asteria for the 12pm whale watch we traveled to the northern portion of Stellwagen Bank. On our way to the bank we had multiple quick sightings of some minke whales and even a Mola mola (or ocean sunfish).

Mola mola | Photo from 9-27-14

With no luck on the bank, we traveled out past Thacher’s Island to continue our search for whales. After some solid searching, Kirsten, our Research and Education Intern on board, spotted a blow in the distance. We got closer to observe this humpback whale and quickly recognized it as Orbit.

Hazy view of Twin Lights

We haven’t seen this familiar humpback since the beginning of our season. She was taking some long 9-10 minute dives and fluking consistently. Towards the end of our time with her, she began doing some shorter 4 minute dives which was nice, especially for passengers.

Orbit's fluke

Orbit's dorsal fin

Also off in the distance, about ½ mile away, we spotted 2 more humpbacks. It was Pleats and Nike! This pair was also taking some longer dives, 5-8 minutes, and fluking consistently. After leaving the bank, on our way home, we had a quick sighting of a pair of finback whales that were traveling together. Overall, it was a great trip on the bank.

Today was my last trip for this season, so I’d like to give a quick shout out and thank you to everyone who made this whale season so enjoyable. Thanks and have a great rest of the season!

Until next year — Hannah P


2014 Sightings | September 27

On Saturday afternoon on board the Asteria, we headed east in search of whales. We travelled all the way out to the eastern edge of Stellwagen Bank for, I must say, an outstanding whale watch.


Once we arrived in this area there were a few groups scattered around. We started off our trip with a pair of minke whales who were travelling quickly and consecutively at the surface. As we slowly approached a large group of humpbacks ahead of us, a few popped up behind us! They turned out to be Tear, Scratch and Apex/Octave! After this look, we continued moving forward to the larger group. Perseid and Milkweed along with their 2014 calves were in this group and one of the calves rolled about at the surface.

Snare's fluke

A whale named Snare was also in this group – a new sighting for this season! It’s great that we can still have new sightings towards the end of the season. This great big group of whales ducked down on a longer dive. While they were down we spotted a few scattered minke whales and a lone humpback named Pinch. The calves popped up to the surface here and there as well.

Close encounter with the calves

Suddenly one of the calves popped up right between the pulpits, and then the other right behind it! Just when I was talking about the likelihood that the adults were subsurface feeding, right on cue they surfaced directly in-front of us! Everyone on the bow was soaked with whale breath! It was an absolute snarge-fest! (Snarge is a whale watch word for whale breath).

When the 3 adults were down, they must have communicated with some of the other whales in the area because this massive, close-to-boat surfacing included 7 whales! (Milkweed and calf, Perseid and calf, Tear, Piano and Snare). In the midst of all the excitement, one of the calves spyhopped (see picture at top)! It was an amazing day out on the water, with very lucky close looks!

— Annie G


Today aboard the Cetacea, Captain Jim gave us a spectacular whale watch! We went north of Stellwagen bank towards Thatcher’s Island off of Cape Ann.  We found several minkes in the area and had a fabulous viewing of a mola mola, or ocean sunfish.  I first spotted a blue shark and then 10 feet behind it we were amazed to find the sunfish!

Mola mola

It came right up to our boat and passengers were so enthralled with this abnormal species.  We then found Storm flipper slapping near the Hurricane II and fluking near our boat. About a mile away we traveled over to Tornado and calf fluking together. Tornado’s calf did an interesting snake behavior with its body, compelling Tornado to trumpet blow.


A finback whale came right across our bow as we were watching the mother calf pair. Several minkes stayed in the area and we were able to see at least 6 harbor seals swimming around us.  We had such wildlife diversity on today’s trip and there was always something to look at in any direction around the boat. Thanks to Captain Jim making the voyage to Cape Ann, we had a phenomenal day out on the water!

— Laura


2014 Sightings | September 26

Today on board the Asteria for the 10am whale watch, we traveled towards the southwest corner of the bank. As we approached the bank, we started seeing blows a little further north. As we got closer, we quickly realized that there were humpback whales in EVERY direction!

Pectoral slap

Open-mouth feeding

We believe that there were 20-25 whales all within 2 miles from another. Even from a distance we could tell that almost all the whales in the area were feeding. We saw kick feeding, bubble clouds, and open mouths everywhere. First, we spent some time with Pleats, who was kick feeding and bubble net feeding next to the boat on the port side. On the starboard side Nile and her calf made a quick appearance. After a few minutes we slowly moved forward and saw Aswan and Tear.


The pair surprised us with multiple breaches! Passengers were ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the high volume of activity. Next we moved even further north to multiple groups of humpbacks that were feeding together. At one point 5 humpbacks surfaced together with mouths wide open. It was phenomenal.

Four open mouths

Identifications for the trip included Nile, Nile 2014 Calf, Pleats, Scratch, Perseid, Perseid 2014 Calf, Aswan, Colt, Salt, Epsom, Apex, Tear, Habenero, Milkweed, Milkweed 2014 Calf, and Rapier 2009 Calf. We saw breaching, pectoral slapping, tail lobs, bubble feeding, and open mouth feeding. It was an awesome trip on the bank.

— Hannah and Sophie


2014 Sightings | September 25

We’ve had quite the influx of activity out on the SW corner of Stellwagen Bank the last two days! Today aboard the Aurora’s 10am trip, we arrived at the corner to find an estimated 15 humpbacks kick, bubble net, and open mouth feeding! As well as a few Minkes, and many Cory’s Shearwaters, Great Shearwaters, Northern Gannets, and gulls in the area.

Rapier's 2009 calf kickfeeding

Our trip started out with excitement as we found Rapier’s 2009 calf kick feeding with high splashes and lots of energy. This whale didn’t appear to be using bubbles, but at one point made one huge single bubble under the water. And after each time it would feed, Rapier’s 09 calf would do a slight spyhop out of the water, so we were able to check out the barnacles on the chin! Great to see this whale feeding well. It endured a serious tailstock injury as a calf, but overtime the injury has healed. There is a however a bit of deformity it the tailstock.

After watching Rapier’s 09 calf for a while, we moved on to the many blows in the short distance, which turned out to be a scattered feeding frenzy of humpbacks!

Milkweed feeding

Our first group consisted of Milkweed, her calf, Pleats, Piano, and Storm. At different points in time – we saw great displays of kick feeding from Piano, Storm, and Pleats – and we also saw great big open mouths from Milkweed and Pleats as they worked together to bubble net feed (see photo). You can see in the photo that Milkweed has a fresh bottom feeding scar on her mouth – we actually saw a few recent bottom feeding scars – makes sense as these whales have been busy feeding all season. But it’s very exciting to see so much open mouth feeding over the last few days!

Milkweed's calf open-mouth feeding

Speaking of open mouth feeding – Milkweed’s calf was joining in on the feeding action today! Looks like this calf is starting to wean – we saw it feeding open mouth alongside mom (see photo), and creating some of its own bubble nets right in front of our boat! This calf gave us some great close to boat looks feeding, rolling, and fluking (see photo).

Milkweed's calf

As stated in an earlier blog – we did observe Milkweed’s calf appear to get entangled, and then free itself, in fishing gear yesterday. From what we observed, this whale seems to be gear free today – and we have sent our photos to the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, as we continue to monitor this calf.

Piano's upsetting propeller scar

One thing all of the passengers observed today were the very noticeable propeller scars on boat Piano (see photo) and Pleats. These are both relatively young whales (only 5 and 6 years old) with large wounds on their flanks – and actually both of these whales were named because of those scars. A great reminder of the ship/boat strike issue these whales face. As a whale watch company, we always try to watch these animals respectfully and abide by the whale watch guidelines and restrictions. And our larger whale watch boats are actually propeller free! (We are jet propelled.)

Perseid, Apex and Aswan open mouth feeding

We moved from this group to find another group of three bubble net feeding – Perseid, Aswan, and Apex. Perseid’s calf wasn’t seen – but with how independent it’s been lately, it doesn’t surprise me! At this time of the year we sometimes see calves wean/separate early from their mothers.

This adult trio was fantastic to watch – all three would come up at the surface with big 90 degree open mouths, from different directions feeding very tight-knit. Each time they would come up in the same pattern – and we got great looks of their feeding (see photo). If you look closely in the photo – you’ll see a small sand lance trying to scurry away in the air!

We also spotted Pitcher doing some kick feeding, and wrapped up our trip with one final look of Rapier’s 2009 calf, who was still kick feeding as well.

Awesome day on the water!

— Laura


We had another amazing day on the water, seeing all three species of whales in addition to a Mola mola! We passed a cruising fin whale as we approached the bank, but moved on to an area where we found three separate groups of feeding whales!

Unbelievable looks at whales and their fringe of baleen

Timberline and another humpback, both kickfeeding, were the first group we spent time with. Next, a group of four whales including Pleats, Octave, Hatchmark and Perseid repeatedly fed with bubble nets. Perseid’s calf and Storm, both solo, were swimming nearby. Our final group was another bubble net feeding group including Milkweed, Aswan and a couple other whales.

Say ahhhhhh...

Open-mouth feeding behavior

Finally, I am happy to report that our entanglement victim from yesterday, Milkweed’s calf, was happy and healthy and apparently gear-free. This young whale displayed some flipper slapping and play kickfeeding but never surfaced with a mouthful of fish like the adults.

Milkweed's calf

Soon enough, however, this young calf, becoming increasingly independent, will separate from his mother as their feeding season comes to an end. Overall, we had another incredible whale watch on Stellwagen Bank!!



2014 Sightings | September 24

Our 10am whale watch on board the Cetacea yesterday was quite a roller coaster, but it turned out to be one of the most fantastic whale watches I have ever been on!

Open mouth feeding!

Tornado's signature open mouth with the double pectoral slap

As we approached the southern part of the bank, we saw groups of feeding humpbacks everywhere! The first group we approached was a large group of about 6-8 kickfeeding humpbacks including Milkweed, and her calf, Perseid, Tornado’s calf, and Pleats. Tornado’s calf was putting on an amazing show breaching entirely out of the water repeatedly! Soon, a number of these whales started heading toward a larger group of bubble net feeding whales ahead of us.

Hungry whales

Throughout this transition, we waited behind allowing the whales to move safely ahead while watching Pleats kickfeed next to Milkweed’s play-feeding calf. Both whales were alarmingly close to a set of buoys which marked the site of fishing gear, possibly a gill net or lobster pot. Just as I began addressing the danger fixed fishing gear poses to marine animals, we watched as this young calf became entangled in the line (see photo), dragging both buoys beneath the surface as it dove to escape the gear.

Milkweed's calf dragging fishing gear

While whales in Massachusetts Bay become entangled in fishing gear just about every day, this was the first time in three years of whale watching that I have witnessed an entanglement firsthand. We immediately began calling a disentanglement team because, as entangled whales struggle, the line can wrap further around and deeper into the whales causing infection and, depending on the type of entanglement, even death. Often, however, whales are able to shed the gear on their own and, luckily, this is what happened today. After repeated tail lobs, the calf was able to free itself from the line and appeared to be gear-free throughout the rest of the trip. Nonetheless, we will continue to monitor the calf’s condition in the coming days to make sure there are no hidden lines wrapped around any less-obvious parts of its body.

Lots of whales!

After the calf freed itself, it swam ahead to the newly formed super group of about 12 whales that were collaboratively bubble net feeding. This group included Tornado, Milkweed, Perseid, Salt, Tear, Aswan, Colt, Octave, Storm and Timberline. It was absolutely jaw dropping to watch these whales work so well together time after time. Eventually, the group split up into smaller groups; however, more whales joined one of the smaller groups forming another group of 9 bubble net feeding whales. Throughout this feeding, we watched some amazingly unique behavior; Tornado using her signature double pectoral fin slaps and Tear filtering on his back.

Thread and Tornado get mouths full

Today was an unforgettable day on the water and we look forward to hopefully seeing Milkweed’s calf healthy and gear free in the coming days.



2014 Sightings | September 22

Today on board the Asteria for the 10am whale watch, we traveled to the Southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank in pursuit of whales. Once we arrived at the bank we found a group of 4 humpbacks! It was Perseid, and her calf, and Milkweed and her calf.

Milkweeds newest calf

These two mom and calf pairs traveled close to one another and took some 5-7 minute dives. While the moms were down on a dive the calves kept us entertained at the surface. They rolled around, practiced some fluke-up dives, and Perseid’s calf even treated us to a FULL breach!! After 15 minutes or so, the two Mom/calf pairs split and traveled in opposite directions. We stayed with Milkweed and calf as they swam towards an area where we observed 20+ Northern Gannets and Greater Shearwaters dive-bombing into the water to catch prey.

Milkweed's calf gives passengers quite a look

As Milkweed dove down to feed, her calf approached the boat to check us out. See attached photo of this curious calf next to the boat. At this point in the season the calves are becoming more independent from Mom. We also noticed that the calf has grown quite a bit since we first saw it in the beginning of the season. It’s great to see another healthy humpback join the population here. Towards the end of the trip, the calf swam right under and across our bow and treated everyone to a close up tail slap.

Milkweed's calf tail slapping

It was GREAT!! See attached photo of that moment. Also check out of the photo of the Calf’s fluke. It already has changed drastically since the beginning of the season. Overall, it was a fantastic day out on Stellwagen.

— Hannah


This afternoon we headed out to the southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank. It was super choppy out today, but luckily we had great visibility and were able to make it out to the bank to find whales. Tiny whitecaps made it tricky to find whales until one breached in the distance! Captain Chip zipped over to the breaching whale to get a closer look.

Perseid's fluke with her calf on her tail

Once we got there, things started to settle down. The breaching whale turned out to be a calf! Soon, the mother came up to the surface and we learned that it was Perseid. Throughout the rest of the trip, the calf continued to be active at the surface while Perseid took 4-5 minute dives, possibly doing some subsurface feeding.

Perseid's calf's playing

The calf treated passengers to a bunch of tail breaches! As time wound down, and we started heading back to Boston, the calf continued to be active at the surface giving passengers great looks as we began our journey back to the city. We had a great day out there!!

— Annie G.


2014 Sightings | September 21

Today aboard the Cetacea we headed to the mid bank/northwest corner in search of whales. Once we got to Stellwagen we almost immediately came across a pod of 30-50 Atlantic white sided dolphins.

Atlantic white-sided dolphins

They stayed with us for about ten minutes and periodically came close to the boat on the port and starboard sides giving passengers close up looks of a few mother/calf pairs.  Though we spent the rest of the trip searching, we soon encountered patches of fog making it nearly impossible to spot whales.  We returned home and all passengers were issued rain checks.

— Annie W.


This afternoon we headed out to the southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank. As we approached the bank, we encountered some very thick fog! Thick fog can be a naturalist’s worst enemy because it makes it nearly impossible to spot for whales in the distance. We really lucked out today though because as the fog cleared slightly, we spotted some splashing at the edge of the fog!

Flipper slapping

We started of our trip with a lone humpback who was flipper slapping at the surface, this individual ducked down on a dive so we moved over to even more activity in the distance. We encountered a huge group of humpbacks which consisted of Perseid and her 2014 calf, Storm, Pele and Pepper!

Perseid's calf tail slapping

The group of adults would duck down on 5 minute dives, likely doing some subsurface feeding, while Perseid’s calf was active at the surface! The calf continued to roll, flipper-slap, tail-slap and breach! This very active calf was so much fun to watch!

Pitcher's fluke

Towards the end of our trip, we were approached by a group of three other whales! They turned out to be Nile and her 2014 calf along with Pitcher! Suddenly, Nile’s calf surprised everyone on board with a HUGE full breach just off the port bow! It was a stunning end to the trip! We are so lucky to have had such great sightings on such a foggy afternoon.

Sunset over Boston

The fog made for a very unique sunset!

On the way back to Boston, the fog was extremely thick! Once we made it past Georges Island, things started to clear up a bit and we saw one of the most unique and beautiful sunsets of the summer! It was an awesome trip from start to finish and I’m so glad the forecasted rain held out until just now.

—Annie G.


2014 Sightings | September 18

Today on board the Cetacea for the 1:30 whale watch, we traveled to the Southwest corner to search for whales. Upon arrival, we began spotting blows in all directions. We first spent a few surfacings with 2 unassociated humpbacks. First we saw Aswan, but it quickly dove down. Another individual surfaced nearby, that we thought was Aswan, but turned out to be Tear. It seemed as if the two individuals were alternating logging at the surface and fluking. We also spotted several other humpbacks in the area.

Triple dive

Perseid's fluke

Then what we thought was a good whale watch quickly turned into a spectacular one. We moved a little farther east to find four associated humpbacks. It was Perseid and her calf and Milkweed and her calf. While the moms were down on their short 3-4 minute dives, the calves “played” at the surface. They were rolling around at the surface, pectoral slapping, and spy hopping!

Spyhop with a great view of the tubercles, or stove bolts, on the whale's chin area

More spyhoping

Passengers were treated to spy hop after spy hop. In total we saw 8-10 spy hops from these two calves! Perseid’s calf continued to be curious of the vessel, like it’s been for the past couple of days, and both calves approached us on multiple occasions! The entire group even swam under boat a couple times. Giving everyone amazing close looks at these large animals.

Picture perfect

A close encounter!

See attached photos of some the remarkable spy hops we observed. While with these 4 whales we spotted Pele and Pepper out in the distance. It’s great to know that all these whales are still around. I hope they stick around for a while longer.

Hannah and Jess