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Jabiru’s 2015 Calf

Each spring we eagerly await the return of our familiar females – and last spring we were surprised and elated to see Jabiru bring back a young calf, most likely born between December and February in the Caribbean. This was Jabiru’s first known calf, spotted in late May of 2015 with a spectacular display of tail breaching. This activity pretty much set the tone for the rest of the season, where the calf was often seen flipper slapping, breaching, and approaching our boats for a closer look – which left us wondering who was watching who? Jabiru and her calf spent a great deal of time with Pele, Cajun and her calf. The two calves often interacted, perhaps trying to out-do each other with their acrobatic behavior.  On one evening trip in August, Jabiru’s calf fully breached right alongside the boat. As our naturalist described it – “I swear we were in the splash zone!” Our final sighting in early November showed mom and calf together, synchronized lob-tailing. Though we had many looks at this young whale’s fluke, its pattern won’t become permanent for at least another year, at which point it will get a name.

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Sundown

Sundown is named for her beautiful dark fluke, resembling a night sky sunset. This female is often seen kick-feeding, which is a learned behavior observed on Stellwagen Bank, and varies among individuals. Sundown has her own distinct style of kick-feeding – her tail kicks are completed with a full 90 degrees and somewhat floppy fluke, also incorporating bubbles to help corral the sand lance underwater. In mid-September, together with 15-20 other humpbacks, a very active Sundown was spotted in the distance and treated everyone on board to repeated tail slaps, tail lobs, tail breaches, pectoral flipper slaps, and even breaching. Our last sighting of Sundown was in October, where she once again took center stage, kick-feeding right alongside the boat and then surfacing with an open-mouth lunge – sand lance attempting to leap out of her mouth for their lives!

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Hancock

Hancock, an older female, arrived with a new calf in 2015. She was first spotted on the 1st of August with a large group of fellow humpbacks. Hancock’s newest calf stole the show that day with breach after breach, and soon became one of our favorite calves of 2015. We know and love Hancock for her large size. She is often seen feeding and creating large spiral bubble nets with other whales to corral sand lance. Late in October, we observed her calf feeding on its own (calves wean after about 10-12 months). On one of our favorite sightings of Hancock, she came to the surface with a huge open mouth lunge alongside the boat. Humpbacks often gulp over 2,000 gallons of seawater when they filter feed – and this was clearly observed. She’s also wowed us with some magnificent lob-tail behaviors. 

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Etch-a-Sketch

Etch-a-Sketch is part of a well-documented whale family which is very special to us, and was born in 1998. Her grandmother is Salt, the oldest known and very first whale given a name on Stellwagen Bank. Etch-a-Sketch’s mother is Thalassa, Salt’s first known daughter. Both Salt and Thalassa have been successful mothers with 13 and 8 known calves respectively. In 2014, Etch-a-Sketch continued this legacy by showing up with her first known calf.  Etch-a-Sketch is always easily identifiable by her big dorsal fin as well as her energetic kick feeding style—she tends to slap her flukes as well as her entire powerful tail on the water’s surface. It’s thought that this action stuns the prey so the whale can capture as many fish as possible in its huge mouth.