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Stellwagen Bank

Stellwagen is one of the world’s premier wildlife viewing areas. Whales flock to this underwater plateau at the mouth of Massachusetts Bay every summer to socialize and feed. The area is rich in nutrients so there’s plenty to go around for dolphins, seals, sea birds and fish, too.

With a certified New England Aquarium naturalist on every trip, you’ll learn about all the remarkable marine life, as well as how to identify different species, and the methods we use to track individual animals.

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Humpbacks

These Northern Hemisphere whales reach an average length of 50 feet, and weigh about 37 tons.

The humpback is named for the way its back arches out of the water when preparing to dive. "Megaptera" is its true scientific name, which means "large-winged," in reference to its long flippers.

Each humpback has distinct black and white markings on its fluke (tail). Since no two flukes are alike, scientists use these markings to distinguish one humpback from another.

When humpbacks leap into sight, it’s not because they like putting on a show. Often, they’re actually "lunge feeding" - plowing through heavy areas of food with their mouths open wide to dine on entire schools of fish including anchovies, cod and capelin.

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Minkes

Averaging 20-30 feet in length and up to 8 to 10 tons, Minkes are some of the most abundant whales in the world. They are sleek, small, dolphin-like baleen whales. Because of their relatively small size and lower energy needs, their diet includes a wider variety of fish than the larger fin and humpback whales. At times, they may even eat single larger fish rather than large quantities of small fish.

Very little is known of the life history of Minke whales. Females are thought to give birth to a single calf every 1-2 years. Mother-calf pairs are rarely observed, although in the past we’ve seen what we think are independent calves with mom in the general vicinity during September and October.

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Finbacks

At 60-80 feet and 50-60 tons, Finbacks are second in size only to blue whales. Their most distinctive characteristics include an asymmetrical lower jaw that’s white on the right side and grey-black on the left with 50-200 pleats on the lower jaw that expand during feeding.

Finbacks are mostly solitary, although coordinated groups of up to 15 have been observed. Mating is thought to take place during winter and there is some evidence they may live up to 100 years.