Log for August 29, 2015

On Saturday we had some old and new individuals in the mix, first finding humpback whales Mostaza’s 2014 calf, and an unknown of the season. Both of these whales were logging, and as there was a lot of recreational boats crowding these whales, Captain Adam decided to go the extra mile to the SE corner – which paid off! 

We found Perseid with Hancock and her 2015 calf. We had a wonderful trip with this calf – as it breached for us 7 times! (see photos). It was quite worth the extra travel, and was one of my favorite trips I’ve had this month!

We also spotted  two Lion’s Mane Jellyfish – which were about the size of a dinner plate (see picture).

— Laura


Log for August 27, 2015

It was a gorgeous day out on the water today aboard the Sanctuary! Our 10am trip started off strong with a beloved mother and calf pair who have returned to Stellwagen Bank! Up until today, we had not seen Owl and her calf since May! It was quite a relief to see the young calf healthy and kickin’. Just prior to our last sighting of this calf, it had encountered two separate entanglements! While it looks like the wounds have healed up well, there’s still some raw areas that have yet to heal (see photo)! Nonetheless, the calf spent some time independently from mom and seems to be growing quickly!

We then moved on to Cajun, calf and Pele whom we watched briefly as they dove and surfaced, likely subsurface feeding. As we watched the trio, a small tern flew by with a GIANT bird in its mouth which definitely pleased some birders on board!

This afternoon, we returned to Pele, Cajun and her calf. We began getting pumped up as we approached this sighting, seeing from miles away that this calf was flipper slapping! Cajun’s calf displayed a range of surface active behaviors as Cajun and Pele fed beneath the surface including tail breaching, spy hopping and inverted tail lobbing! 

A few times Cajun and Pele surprised us all as they energetically surfaced right off the pulpits with loud exhalations! I may or may not have released a startled scream over the microphone, and I can’t say that’s the first time that has happened….

As we headed back home we came across two solo humpback whales both of which were making very long dives. The first one was an unknown with a monster dorsal fin that we have been seeing a lot this year. The second was Shards, a whale that was recently satellite tagged by Center for Coastal Studies.

It was a beautiful and glassy ride home, a great way to end a long day on the water!



Log for August 24, 2015

We had a very diverse morning on the Cetacea with Captain Bill! We started our trip with a lone juvenile humpback whale who was taking 5-6 minute dives. We got close looks at this whale as it slowly travelled just below the surface right next to our boat! We saw plenty of birds out here today including Wilson’s storm petrels, Great shearwaters and some dive-bombing Northern Gannets! 

We moved on after a bit and started watching a group of four humpbacks. Cajun, Jabiru and their calves were active in the area today. We enjoyed watching both calves rolling, flipper-slapping and tail slapping. Out of nowhere, Cajun, a huge mother humpback, breached! It only happened once, but it was a fantastic grand finale for our whale watch. 

I always like to say that the whale watch is never truly over until you have both feet back on land, and today this saying rang true. On our way back, Josh (the awesome deckhand) as well as another passenger spotted dolphins! We spent some extra time out on the water today and enjoyed the sight of common dolphins which are really not all that common! 

Passengers were excited to spot these playful dolphins between our pulpits and all around the bow! I was just as giddy as the passengers were with this sight because we really don’t get to see dolphins much! 

To wrap it all up, we decided to take a few more minutes to check out a mola mola that was found by our friends on the Asteria!

It was a great day with some really unique sightings! I’m glad our camera was equipped with a polarized filter today!

— Annie


Log for August 21, 2015

The reviews are in and a little boy on the 12:00 whale watch today raves that “on a scale of one to ten, this whale watch was a 200!”

This afternoon on the Aurora, Captain Jeff navigated us to some very exciting humpback whales. We started out with Cajun and her 2015 calf, Jabiru and her 2015 calf and Pele! Upon our arrival, we were excited to spot the calves milling about at the surface. They began to swim over to our boat, when suddenly one of the calves breached! 

We were excited to have such an amazing look so early in the trip and little did we know, this behavior would be an overarching theme for the rest of the trip. Our first glimpse of the adults was a close swim-by right beneath our bow. The calves continued to curiously inspect our boat and at one point, one calf even rolled to the side to take a look at us! As we watched this group, the calves continued to be surface-active. In the distance we noticed another whale who was splashing quite a bit. Perhaps the calves breaches were getting a response from a distance as it is suspected to be a form of communication. It was difficult to peel ourselves away from this active group of 5 whales, but we decided to wrap up our whale watch with the single whale in the distance which ended up being an exciting sight!

We watched Nile’s 2014 calf (a yearling)  for just about 10 minutes, and the entire time it continuously breached as it traveled! I counted my photos and in that 10 minute span, I photographed 15 breach sequences (and I definitely missed some). I’m willing to bet that this whale was breaching at least twice a minute and it continued breaching as we took our turn towards Boston. Today was unforgettable for myself and hopefully the passengers too. Some folks even got a breaching whale selfie! My favorite thing about days like today is that on any given whale watch we go out into the whales’ natural habitat to see their natural behaviors. No whistles were blow, no one told the whales what to do, their natural behaviors were spectacular all on their own. It was a special day!

— Annie


Log for August 20, 2015

Today on board the Asteria for our 11am whale watch, Captain Joe lead us to the southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank. Once reaching the bank we found ourselves in some thick fog. Luckily our sister vessel, the Sanctuary saw whales and shared their location with us. 

It is usually very tricky to find whales in the fog. We observed Pele, Cajun, Jabiru, and their calves. As the adults did some high fluking dives for some subsurface feeding, the calves stayed at the surface. This allowed passengers to watch whales for almost the entire trip! 

At one point, our focus was quickly switched to an adorable harbor seal pup that popped up in our jet wash bubbles. We estimate the pup was only 3 feet long! Towards the end of the trip Cajun’s 15 Calf surfaced very close to the boat giving passengers a great look at its tubercles! Even though it was a foggy summer day, we had an excellent trip on the southwest corner.

— Hannah


Today on board the Aurora with Captain Tom we made our way to the Southwest corner. As we began to approach the bank we also began to move in and out of pockets of fog. Luckily, before things got too foggy we found two groups of whales! Two humpbacks surfaced briefly off of our starboard side but we decided to head towards a group of 5 off of our port side. This group of 5 consisted of Cajun and her 2015 calf, Pele, and Jabiru and her 2015 calf. All 5 were travelling around fairly randomly and taking short dives. 

However, this changed abruptly when Cajun’s calf started breaching and continued to breach throughout the rest of the trip! While the adults continued their pattern of short dives Cajun’s calf continued to breach and soon Jabiru’s calf joined in. 

Both calves breached the entire rest of the trip, sometimes in tandem, which was certainly special for our passengers (although really hard to get a picture of—but we got the splash!). As we stayed with this group the fog continued to roll in and out until we had to turn around to head home-at that point it was hard to see 100 feet to either side!

It was an absolutely wonderful day out on the Bank!

—Annie W.


Log for August 19, 2015

Today was a beautiful day on the southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank. We were lucky to have sunny skies and clear visibility well over 10 miles out. Our day started on the western edge of the bank, where we were able to find Cardhu and her calf logging contently at the surface. Personally, this was my first time seeing Cardhu this season so I was elated to see her and her new calf today.  

There was a small boat watching them as well but both the boat and the whales were just relaxing and enjoying the nice day outside. I noticed a few other blows about 3 miles away towards Provincetown so we said our goodbyes and headed south. 

There, we were happy to see Cajun and her calf, Jabiru and her calf, and the stoutly Pele. The group were fluking in unison and demonstrating probable subsurface feeding. One of the calves was a little more rowdy than the group and conducted some tail rises, back rises, and a slight roll. Passengers watched this group for the remainder of the trip and we were lucky to see the humpbacks so calf-heavy today. 

There were not a lot of birds today, although we did see some common terns on our trip.  It was a great day out on the water today! A shout out to our Captain Deb for facilitating such a wonderful trip, and to Peter for taking gorgeous photos.

— Laura


Log for August 17, 2015

I am pleased to say that we had what Captain Chip called a “top three whale watch” today afternoon aboard the Aurora! It started off great with an early sighting of a small alien-like Mola mola, also known as a giant ocean sunfish. These gelatinous feeders spend most of their time floating at the surface in the sun which is, of course, how they got their name. This behavior gives us the unique opportunity to see quite a number of these bony fish (the largest in the world) at various points throughout the season!

We then moved on to Cajun, her calf and Pele who appeared to be subsurface feeding. After watching this trio for about 15 minutes, we heard a report of a humpback who was possibly entangled close by. We cruised over to the scene and observed the juvenile of concern floating vertically in the water column, it’s rostrum up out of the water while refraining from breathing for at least 12 minutes. Though we observed no gear at the surface, we considered that pot gear may have been wrapped around the peduncle and anchoring it to the ocean floor. We were incredibly relieved when the whale who turned out to be Nile’s 2014 calf slowly angled horizontally and eventually took a breath of air.

The behavior that followed was some of the most exciting marine mammal interactions I have ever experienced! Nile 14 Calf proceeded to circle the Aurora displaying a definite interest in both the boat and the passengers aboard. 

He spy hopped, rolled, looked up at us and lifted his pectorals in the air. Though Captain Chip gives me a hard time for using the term “mugging”, even he admitted that we got “mugged” by Nile 14 Calf.

It was both exciting and touching to have such a special experience with the much anticipated calf that Nile was carrying throughout the 2013 feeding season, which has been coined by naturalists and scientists alike as the “summer of Nile”. 

I’d love to see everyone’s footage of this very special trip. Definitely make sure to share your awesome photos and videos with us on Instagram! #Bostonharborcruises

— Tasia


Log for August 13, 2015

Today we were very lucky to have such a beautiful day out on the bank! Collaborating with other boats in the area, we decided to head towards the middle of Stellwagen Bank with the goal of moving towards the eastern edge and heading south.  

Firefly and calf — up close and personal

Once we arrived at the western edge of the bank near the shipping lane we were floored to have found Firefly and her calf! Firefly is a personal new sighting this season and I was thrilled to see her again. She has been a staple to the Gulf of Maine humpback whale population and has proudly brought calves to this area during previous seasons.  

Baby breach

Luckily, her calf was breaching over and over right next to our boat!  It was such a calm bright day on the water and the calf had a very relaxed breaching style, making it such a fun summer day!  It is always fun to observe these behaviors and theorize why they are breaching the way they do.  

Summer on Stellwagen

Sometimes we can make an educated guess that they are communicating with other whales in the area, or maybe expressing a dominant behavior. This calf seemed so laid-back and really looked like he/she was just enjoying the morning like the rest of us.  

One fun-loving calf?

Other than breaching, we were excited to see lobtailing from the calf, as well as some rolling, flipper slapping, and spy hopping! We were in the company of the Miss Cape Ann, Hurricane II, and Privateer IV.  Thanks to Captain Jim we were able to have a bright, sunny, refreshing day out on Stellwagen with Firefly and her energetic calf.

— Laura Cupicha


Log for August 12, 2015

Today appeared to be a day of tagged/previously tagged whales for our whale watches!

Tongs with the tag

Captain Chip and the Aurora crew, we headed near the western edge of the middle of Stellwagen along the shipping lane. When we arrived in crystal clear seas, we found three humpbacks resting at the surface, taking moderate dives. Our three humpbacks today were Nile, Timberline, and Tongs. As from our earlier report, Tongs is one of the Center for Coastal Studies’ current satellite tagged whale, as part of a study to look at the health impacts of longer-term tags (see photo of tag). 


This research began in 2011, and Nile and Timberline were also previously tagged. You can actually observe where their tags were by the “dimple-like” scar on their flanks (see photo of Timberline).

Sea lamprey on tail

Today on my trip I also saw something I’ve never seen before on a whale – a sea lamprey! These blood-sucking parasites are occasionally seen on large whales here in the Gulf of Maine, and each time Nile fluked today we could see it dangling from her tail (see photos). 

Sea lamprey on Nile's tail...for now

These are small eel-like parasites that bite on the whale and suck blood. A few folks asked me if this was harmful for Nile – it is a parasite, but as Nile is 40-ton whale, the lamprey is nothing to worry about and will probably be shaken off her tail in a few days.

Great day on the water!

— Laura Howes


Log for August 11, 2015

This morning on the Cetacea, Captain Jimmy and co. weathered the wind-blown seas towards the southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank. With the seas beginning to build the further out we went, we were lucky enough to come across Jabiru and her calf 5 miles before even approaching the bank. 

This playful juvenile was rolling through and riding along the waves as mom dove to depths. Captain Jim noticed that the fish-finder showed huge shoals of fish along the ocean floor beneath us. Jabiru was likely pursuing her breakfast while the calf waited impatiently at the surface, flipper slapping and spy hopping. 

As the two slowly made their way northeast, a Cory’s and great shearwater lazily followed behind, joining the duo each time they surfaced. Perhaps they were using these whales as an indicator of where to find food. We had a glorious time watching the learning calf and lackadaisical shearwaters while also riding the waves.

We were one of the only boats to actually make it out to see whales today! What a lucky bunch! Hopefully in the coming days, the wind will die down and the seas will calm!

— Tasia


Log for August 8, 2015

This morning on the Asteria we travelled SE of Boston in search of whales. We were underway and only about 20 miles from the Aquarium before we spotted our first whales! We found a pair of humpback whales named Sprinkler and Sirius. 

These two were slowly traveling towards the northeast. At one point, the whales were traveling towards us and they disappeared just out of view below the surface. Before we knew it, one of the whales was directly next to the starboard bow! Everyone on the railing was soaked with whale breath, but still had smiling faces! We decided to continue on towards the bank and the trip paid off! 

Once we got there a whale breached right next to us! Our last looks were of a group of 7 whales including Bayou, Cajun, Cajun's 2015 Calf, Perseid, Jabiru, Jabiru's 2015 Calf and Pele! It was an awesome trip!!

On the sunset whale watch on the Cetacea we headed to the SW corner. There were many scattered whales, but we zeroed in on one humpback who was kick-feeding! A-plus would blow a big bubble cloud, and then come up with a few kicks before fluking and then surfaced with expanded ventral pleats. At one point, A-plus blew a bubble cloud right between the pulpits and gave everyone on the bow an unforgettable look! Later on we caught up with Sprinkler who had travelled pretty far from where we spotted this whale earlier this morning. Sprinkler was continuously flipper slapping, tail slapping and even breached once! It was a beautiful day with an amazing sunset to top it all off.

— Annie Goodenough


Log for August 7, 2015

Today on board the Sanctuary for our 10am whale watch, Captain Dave took us to the southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank. Once there we found 12-15 scattered humpbacks. First we stopped with Sprinkler, who was doing some fluking dives. 

Next we observed Pepper and her 2015 calf. This duo started to do some nursing so we decided to give them their space and moved about ½ a mile away to watch 6-8 other humpbacks. We were able to ID Cajun, Cajun 2015 calf, Canopy, Bayou and Perseid. These whale were splitting and joining with one another, making it a tricky day for data collection. They were swimming quickly too, maybe indicating they were chasing behind some schools of prey.

For our 2pm trip, we returned to the Southwest corner to again find 12-15 scattered humpbacks. We started, and spent the majority of the trip, with 2 groups of 4 humpbacks that were alternating times at the surface. First we would watch Pele, Canopy, Jabiru, and Jabiru’s 2015 Calf, and then Bayou, Perseid, Cajun, and Cajun’s 2015 Calf. The calves even treated us to some surface activity as we waited for the adults to resurface. 

Jabiru’s calf stole the show with lots of rolling, pec slapping, tail slapping, and even a breach or two. There were a lot of boats in the area so we decided moved a little bit west to find Sprinkler traveling alone, and Twine and Sirius traveling together. 

Sirius is a new sighting for us this season. Great to know there are some new arrivals to the bank. See attached photo of his fluke.

—Hannah Pittore