2014 Sightings | October 18

We had a great whale watch this morning on the Salacia!  Since the whales have been pretty consistent down on the southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank, we returned to that area and were not disappointed.

Wizard and calf

We started our trip with Wizard and her calf, who has been a regular during the end of our season. Wizard and calf were apparently taking a break today from all of their rambunctious activities the day before, as we observed them primarily resting, or “logging.” The pair was very slow moving, taking about 6-minute dives and often times just sort of ‘sinking’ down instead of actually fluking.  Luckily we caught a look at her fluke for a positive ID.  Whales ‘sleep’ by resting half of their brain at a time, since they need to be consciously thinking about breathing all the time.

While we were hanging out with Wizard and calf, we spied a couple humpbacks about a mile away that were flipper slapping! We decided to leave Wizard and calf to their afternoon snooze and went over to find a group of four whales together, one of which was another calf.

Flipper slapping

Now usually, calves are the rambunctious ones, but in this instance all of the adults were the ones being active! At one point all three of them had their 15-foot-long flippers high in the air.  I’ve never observed so many adults flipper slapping at the same time!

Buckshot fluke

Salt fluke

Our group of four turned out to be Milkweed and calf, Buckshot, and Salt!  I’m so glad I got to see Salt again one last time this season – also that I got to see her engaging in a surface activity like flipper slapping!  Pretty incredible.


Milkweed seemed to be the ring leader of the flipper slapping, as even after Salt and Buckshot split off on their own, she continued for several more minutes.  Humpbacks also never cease to amaze me with their flexibility – Milkweed did a little bit of contortionism at one point, see the attached photo for a look at her flipper, ventral pleats, and eye as she curves her back while flipper slapping.

Buckshot scar

Salt and Buckshot continued on their own, and we followed them for a while because I wanted to document a new injury on Buckshot.  She unfortunately now has a very large open wound on her back in front of her dorsal fin which is likely the result of a vessel strike. Over 10% of our humpback population is observed with major vessel strike scars. The wound looks to be a few days or a couple weeks old as it seems to be in the process of healing. From observing other whales with fresh scars, we have learned that the healing process can take several weeks to heal over, but can still change for several years after the injury. Hopefully Buckshot will have an easy recovery, and that if she is pregnant she will be able to carry the calf to term. We’ll look forward to seeing her again next year!



We had a fantastic trip this afternoon on the Asteria! We headed out to the southwest corner for our whale watch today. Once we arrived where the whales were last spotted, we immediately saw big splashes in the distance! A pair of humpbacks were breaching while another flipper-slapped. We decided to get a closer look at the flipper-slapper who turned out to be Milkweed.

Milkweed's flipper

Milkweed and her calf were milling about at the surface and rolled around quite a bit throughout the trip, at one point they rolled around in some seaweed. We got extra close looks at Milkweed flippering, so close that some folks on the bow probably were in the splash-zone! After a while, the calf joined in with the flippering as well and even did some tail-slaps.

Milkweed's calf

Our boat became very interesting to these whales for most of the trip and they continued to surface directly next to us, at one point between the pulpits. I’ve never seen such persistent curiosity from a calf.

Milkweed's calf off the bow

We were interested to find out where the breaching pair from the beginning of the trip had gone so we travelled south in search of them. The pair turned out to the Salt and Buckshot. Unfortunately, we noticed Buckshot was suffering from a pretty nasty boat strike wound.

Buckshot with a fresh injury

Hopefully over the next few weeks we will continue to see Buckshot so that we can monitor the healing process of the wound. I’m curious to see if Salt will stick with Buckshot for a while just as Hippocampus was sighted consistently with Northstar who was injured earlier in the season.

As we made our way back to Boston, we were treated with a surprise tail-breach from Sundown who we were able to get some good ID photos of before we had to continue our course back to Boston.

We had an awesome trip!

Annie G

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