Log for April 18, 2015

We headed out on board the Aurora for this morning’s whale watch towards the northwest corner. Just as we approached the slow down zone we started to see lots of birds in the area and suddenly there were whales everywhere! 

Rainbows and whales

We started with five awesome fin whales which were charging through the area with tons of bird action and Atlantic white sided dolphin surfing the fins’ bow waves. We spotted a few humpback whales in the area but they hard to track through the area but we got good looks at a few unknowns, and two well-known humpbacks, Zeppelin and Geometry. The real show stoppers of the day were the massive numbers of dolphins in the area which seemed to delight in bow-riding and even doing some jumps and back flips. 

Acrobatic and entertaining dolphins

We ended the trip with two humpback whales which were quiet uncooperative on the data collection side and never fluked so we have no idea who these whales might have been. One of these completely made up for this by giving us a huge surprise breach off of our bow. 

Whale breath

Towards the end of our time out on the bank a large vessel moved through the area and we had to shift position to stay out of their way. It was amazing how all of the activity that we’d been enjoying just seemed to disappear as the ship transited the area. Large ships make quite a lot of noise and scientist’s still aren’t completely sure what sort of impact this has on the animals we see each day.

Sea life abounds

In the afternoon we headed back out to the same area where we’d had luck in the morning. The wind and seas had picked up quite a bit and the cloud cover made the sighting conditions less than ideal. When we got out to the bank we could spot the blows but actually seeing the whales was much harder – almost like we had sea-chameleons on our hands. There were a few fins and humpback whales around but we really couldn’t spot them. Today is the first day that some of the boats out of Gloucester are running so the northwest corner is no longer ours alone so we headed over to where one of the other boats was finishing up and picked up a huge group of dolphins which had a great time bow-riding. We eve spotted a few calves in the group. 

We found the group of five humpbacks that the other boat had been watching and were able to identify Mend, Perseid, Falcon, 747, and an unknown Type 5 (all black fluke). We stayed with this group for the rest of the trip. Seeing a group this size is always a treat and we got to watch them over several surfacings with some more whales (including some breach!) off in the distance.

All in all another great day on Stellwagen Bank.

— Tegan and Heidi

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