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Naturalists Notes
Naturalists Notes 8-3-18

August 3, 2018

9:00 AM

Hello whale lovers! Today aboard the Cetacea we tried to escape the heat of Boston to the southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.  While we spent most of our time just off the very edge of the bank, we sighted fin whale very briefly.  This individual was doing 12 minute dives and only at the surface for very few breaths, so we continued on and found several humpback whales spread throughout the tuna fishing fleet.  We started with 3 individual whales working close to one another doing some bubble cloud feeding, which we identified as Etch-a-Sketch, Samara, and Mudskipper.  These whales seemed to be somewhat lethargic between feeding bouts, spending several minutes at the surface before going on 6-8 minute dives and surfacing behind clouds of bubbles.  At one point we had Etch off our bow and Samara near our stern on the port side, where both whales seemed to almost just be logging.  Samara dived, and then seconds later she was in the air in a huge breach right next to us!  Getting one-off breaching photos is about timing and quick thinking, and I just managed to grab a few decent ones.  It’s always spectacular to see our whales doing aerial displays, although it is always so unpredictable.  After her breach we saw her only once more before getting a few more looks at Etch-a-Sketch and a quick look at Mudskipper moving through the area.  We ended with Spell, calf of Wizard from 2014, that was also doing some bubble cloud feeding.

All in all another wonderful day on the water.

Best, Heidi

 

10:00 AM

The 10:00 trip was the perfect example of how quickly things can change and how it’s impossible to predict what time the whales will be more or less active. While we found somewhere in the area about 7-8 humpbacks it was very, very difficult to get good looks at them as they took long dives and surfaced briefly. We got lucky and caught a look at Gladiator’s fluke before seeing Dyad and her calf. They dove out of sight quickly and we ended up following Doric in one big circle until we were starting to watch the clock for our time to return. 

Suddenly Doric, Milkweed, and an unknown surfaced just alongside us with one bubble cloud between them and then Diablo joined the party. It was so thrilling to have found ourselves surrounded by hungry whales surfacing next to us over and over. Eventually Dyad and her calf swam back in our direction and passengers realized how a little patience and persistence can really go a long way!

Laura L. and Eman

 

11:00 AM

Greetings Whale Town, The M/V Asteria made for the southwest reaches of Stellwagen Bank, and upon these Atlantic waters we discovered 10 Humpback whales and 2 Minke whales!  The first of our encounters was of Samara who dove under our bow in a single encounter, and we later gazed upon Dyad and her calf prior to a synchronized dive exceeding 8 minutes.

A platoon of six more whales were headed towards the western edge whilst casting bubbleclouds, and we found an association Etch-A-Sketch and Gladiator between dives of 5 minutes.  While we idled out of gear a denizen did surface within flipper distance of our pulpits, and by fluke pattern we made jubilation upon Echo’s 2014 Calf, a first sighting for the season! 

Diablo did also arise from this oceanic foray, encircling the region with her alchemy of predatory bubble nebulas. Soon shall we return as audience to the pelagic banquet, to witness the great banquets of the winged whales.

Codspeed, Rich W D

 

12:00 PM

Today on board the Aurora, we set off for the southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.  Once on the bank, we came across two humpback whales, Dyad and her calf.  The great visibility through the water gave passengers a unique view of the calf diving below mom and doing a couple of playful turns before coming back up to the surface.  We did do some exploring around the area which led us to two more humpback whales, Etch-a-sketch and Diablo.  Both humpbacks slowly cruised at the surface and gave all on board a great look at their impressive size, true marine giants.  On our way out of the area, there were blows from humpback popping up in all directions.  A good sign for the weekend whale watchers!

Until the next ocean adventure, Lorna and Maddie

 

2:30 PM

Our afternoon brought the feeling of deja vu as we found the whales but had a hard time watching them. We figured we were watching Doric from her typical non-fluking dives save for the very first which allowed us to identify her. Suddenly there was a whale lunging up, pleats expanded, and a peek at her dorsal fin and fluke confirmed that it was Etch-a-Sketch off our port side while Cosmos dove off the starboard shortly following.

Dyad and her calf made an appearance and then all of a sudden passengers shouted excitedly as she rolled over and began flipper slapping. Given her reputation as an, um, difficult whale to watch we were quite surprised and even more so when she began lob tailing. An adorable moment followed when the little calf copied mom and smacked its tail against the water next to her. Diablo was also nearby and we watched two humpbacks swim lazily at the surface barely even seeming to contemplate bringing their flukes up. We had lost track of Dyad and her calf when a noticeably little whale jumped up and out of the water ¼ mile away, and soon they were right back in the mix with the other whales. A full breach from an adult wowed the crowd, but soon it was time to return home for the day.

Laura L. and Eman