2014 Sightings | October 26

We started out with clear skies and choppy seas as we headed out to Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary this morning in search of whales. As we approached the southern part of the sanctuary off Provincetown, we had a plethora of bird sightings in the area, including Northern Gannets, Great and Cory’s Shearwater, and our bird data collector volunteers from the sanctuary even spotted a sooty shearwater! Fall is a great time for seeing different bird species as everything begins to mix it up for the changing seasons.

As there was quite a bit of wind offshore today we had our work cut out for us searching for whales amongst white caps – talk about a needle in a haystack! We did happen to see a few blows in the distance before coming up on a humpback whale that was being very elusive.  We only got a couple of looks at this individual before we noticed some splashing by another animal in the distance.

Palette's fluke

Our active whale turned out to be Palette, although unfortunately she did not continue her surface activity beyond those first couple of looks.  We experienced some high waves as we tried to get some looks at Palatte, who only did a full fluking dive for us twice (see photos).  Luckily we were able to grab a few good looks despite the waves and her erratic behavior.

Palette's dive



This afternoon on the Asteria we decided to travel up to the Northwest Corner to see what we could find. Lately we have been traveling south in search of whales, but because of the rough sea conditions reported on the southern edge of Stellwagen, we decided to try our luck elsewhere. The winds were very strong today which made it tricky to search because white caps can often be mistaken for blows. As we searched the Northwest Corner, there was a very high abundance of Northern Gannets flying every which way. The sight of birds heightened our spirits because the presence of birds is commonly associated with the presence of whales.

Coral's fluke

Freckles' fluke

Freckles' dorsal fin from the right

We persevered though the high winds and choppy water and managed to find two adult humpbacks, Freckles and Coral! This pair was taking 5-8 minute dives and were likely subsurface feeding. Passengers did a great job helping us spot for the whales ahead and behind us which was tricky today because of the sea conditions. The passengers were particularly enthusiastic today as well which always makes a trip extra special. It was an adventure out on the water today and it was great to see Freckles and Coral who we haven’t seen around here since the summer! I’m curious about where in particular they spent their time feeding when they weren’t on Stellwagen Bank.

— Annie G

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