Whale Watch Log: June 11, 2016

This morning for the 11am whale watch the Asteria headed out with Captain Deb and crew to the southern part of Stellwagen Bank in perfect flat sea conditions. The glassy waters meant we were even able to spot  minke whale a few miles away for a surprise sighting just out of Boston. After this great start to our trip we continued on to Stellwagen where the surface was awash with areas of bait. These patches would move and ripple like they were themselves some huge animal. 

The lovely Shuffleboard investigates the vessel

We started the trip with the lovely Shuffleboard who was traveling between bait patches and would blow bubble clouds but was mainly feeding well below the surface. While Shuffleboard was below the surface the fish would jump and you could tell that Shuffleboard was feeding on them. The best moment of the trip came when Shuffleboard decided to stop feeding and seemed to investigate our vessel. We got awesome looks as she hung below the surface just beside us and even swam slowly below the bow. Soon it was time to head home but luckily for us a second humpback whale, Hancock, was on the way so we stopped to watch her below huge circles of bubbles and lunge up through them. We finished our morning out on Stellwagen Bank with one our favorite things of all time, a nice sighting of some whale poop. Just like on land, studying poop or scat to be more proper, is a great way to learn more about what animals do and about their health. Hancock’s large brown poop is a great indicator that she’s eating a large amount of fish and could also be used to study important biological indicators like hormones. That poop is also packed full of important nutrients that get recycled back up to the surface waters where organisms can use it. Whale poop really is awesome stuff.

Filtering food
The 2pm whale watched headed out into a flat Massachusetts Bay with an increasing southerly wind, which made it much chillier than the morning. We headed south of the southwest corner just off the edge of Stellwagen Bank where we found humpback whales, Hancock and Shuffleboard, feeding and traveling together. These whales have been in the same general vicinity as each other for the past week but they’ve been rarely observed associating. The two whales surfaced together displaying feeding lunges a few times but mainly were just diving and traveling randomly. At one point the whale surfaced heading in different directions (very normal for social groups to split up) but Shuffleboard seemed to turn around and hurry to join back up with Hancock. However they didn’t seem to join again and after an underwater collision that we watch with the aid of their bright white pectoral fins Hancock shot off in a different direction and we stayed to watch Shuffleboard who decided to check out the boat, just hanging below the surface, before displaying some awesome lobtailing and tail breaching behavior. Whenever you get to watch these acrobatic displays even if its just a couple of minutes is extremely special. We left Shuffleboard behind not long after this and she’d returned to deep diving potentially searching out dense schools of fish. Once again is was an awesome day on the water with these special animals.

— Tegan

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