Whale Watch Log: May 14, 2016

Today was all about the fin whales. These whales are the second largest animals to ever live on earth, the only asymmetrically colored mammals, and the greyhounds of the sea. They don’t have the boisterous presence of a humpback whale but their understated elegance can’t be diminished. 

Mom and calf fin whales

The 10am whale watch headed out on board the Salacia to the middle part of Stellwagen Bank and found 4-5 fin whales scattered through the area. One of the hardest parts of watching fin whales is how difficult it is to tell individuals apart but they do have natural markings – the chevron patch just above the shoulder blade and scars and nicks along the dorsal fin. 

Chevron patch

One of the whales that featured heavily in all of today’s trips is an individual that I know that I saw back in 2014 as well. The highlight of the morning’s trip by far was getting great looks at a fin whale mother and her calf. We don’t see many fin whale calves on Stellwagen Bank so every sighting is always very special. The 2pm whale watch headed out to the same area and again found around 4-5 fin whales scattered through the area. 

Fin whales

We spent some time with two individuals with quite distinct dorsal fin scars which will aid in keeping track of when we see these animals in the future. The wind seemed to pick up during these trip and the whales’ surface intervals, the time at the surface between dives, decreased dramatically to even just a breath or two between long dives. While frustrating for the whale watcher it’s an amazing display of these animals’ breath holding abilities. As ever it was a fantastic day on the water with these amazing whales.

Northern gannet: Not only about whales, seabirds, too!

— Tegan


Today we had a beeeaaauutiful day offshore with bright sunny skies and pleasantly calm seas.  Captain Adam and Captain Deb brought us right to the edge of the middle of Stellwagen Bank where we found several fin whales milling around.  

Fin whales can be quite tricky to watch, but all of these individuals were actually quite cooperative, surfacing for several slow breaths and taking relatively short dives.  Given that these animals looked to be traveling in wide circular patterns and that we were right on the edge of the bank, it’s very possible that they were engaging in some sub-surface feeding.

We saw approximately five different individuals, three singles spread out, and – my favorite part of the trip – a mother and calf pair!  With calm water and lots of sunlight, we were able to get excellent views of these beautiful animals and their white right jaws and chevron patterns.  At one point you could even make out the white on their flippers just beneath the surface and see the outline of the flukes.  If you’re gonna see fin whales, you definitely want to have a day like today!

— Heidi

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