We had some absolutely spectacular whale watches aboard the Asteria! As we approached the western edge, midway along Stellwagen Bank, we noticed a current line had formed right at the bank's steepest edge. This visible line on the water's surface was very similar to evidence of upwelling I have seen in the past. For those of you who don't know, upwelling is an oceanographic phenomenon which brings nutrients to the ocean's surface and drives many marine ecosystems.
|Chin slap feeding|
Interestingly enough, we observed a somewhat orderly row of at least eight groups of humpbacks feeding right along this current line. As we looked to both the north and south, blows were visible for miles. We conservatively estimated that there were over 50 humpbacks in the area! Captain Joe brought us to a handful of these groups and, for a lot of the time, just kept us in place as whales surfaced all around us!
Among these humpbacks, we identified Weathervane, Landslide, Photon, Whirlygig, Lobo, Pinpoint, Alligator, Cajun, Crisscross, Rapier, Rapier's 2015 calf (kick feeding alongside mom) and Xylem. Most of these animals were bubble net feeding in dynamic groups of 3-6 individuals alongside a handful of kick feeders, but we also observed a few HUGE bubble nets of up to 9 whales! Between bubble nets, groups moved very quickly up and down this line of feeding whales, perhaps to take advantage of schools of sand lance which were rapidly being consumed by the aggregating whales.
|Kick and filter|
This afternoon, the activity had calmed down a bit, but we still saw many humpbacks in the area. We first spotted Jabiru (one of my favs) cruise by our boat, but quickly spotted some breaching in the distance so continued on. The breacher turned out to be Tornado's 2016 calf who spent time alongside mom between relatively long dives. We then moved on to Viking, Pipette, Tracer and Daffodil who were lazily traveling northeast. We had some beautiful looks of these graceful humpbacks and even got to see a couple lobtails from them! It was clear that at least some of them had participated in the morning feeding as evidenced by the present Viking left for us at the surface upon diving (see photo).
As we headed back for Boston, the sun finally came out making for a beautiful ride home after an amazing day of whale watching!