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Naturalists Notes
Naturalists Notes 8-4-18

August 4, 2018

9:00 AM

Hello Whale Family, This morning we boarded the Cetacea in anticipation of beating the heat and joining our aquatic aquaintances 35 miles off shore near the Southwest corner of the Bank. Leaving dark clouds in our wake, we made our way out to Stellwagen in search of another kind of cloudy apparition, the blows of humpbacks. Scattered across the horizon we soon found the splashes of a fluke! Edging closer we found ourselves in the company of an exuberant Mudskipper! Bubble clouds followed by vigorous slapping of the surface with beautiful flukes, Mudskipper emerged from the deep in a series of lunges, treating us to looks at a gaping mouth and the satisfied bulge of expanded rorquals. Always a stunning sight to behold. Though in the area, the other whales remained elusive in name and visibility, exercising their agility in the water in deftly slipping away without a trace.

Until next time! Linnea and Charlie


10:00 AM

Hello all, The Asteria made way for the southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank for our 10 am journey. As we pulled off the dock, the grey clouds of a storm chased behind us. Upon reaching Stellwagen we first spotted a blow of a whale quite a distance ahead of us, but we were pleasantly surprised to have whales closer to us! Venom and her calf dove in sync amongst a pod of Atlantic white sided dolphins. We stayed with these two for a time, baby Venom at the surface more than mom. After these two revealed their flukes once more, we made our way to scattered blows on the horizon. A unassociated group of humpbacks were feeding, one of them being Etch-A-Sketch who was displaying her signature kick-feeding technique. Whales, Milkweed, Diablo, and Timberline amongst them, were lunging at the surface and blowing bubbles. The looming storm clouds caught up to us at the end of our trip, just drizzles of rain beginning as we turned and made our back to Boston.

Chelsi N.


11:00 AM

Greetings Persons of Pelagic Inclinations, The M/V Aurora approached high noon on southwestern Stellwagen Bank, and was met with an electric storm that adjoined the sky and seas as one.  Under graphite clouds we came across the Humpback whale Timberline who crushed his fish banquet with a fluke most unforgiving.  The terror that fell upon this hapless meal was distributed also by Milkweed, a maiden with surface lunges artful and deadline.  A curtain of rainwater did cascade upon our humble camera, but our images of today’s predation do survive!!

The thunder of these titans could not quell the lightning speed of Venom and her calf, a homunculus who played mirror to the mother’s behaviors.  As the larger carnivore cast gaseous bubbleclouds from below, her calf lunged for the surface and clapped mighty jaws under the intensifying rains.  This youngling proved crocodilian in bravado, thrashing its maw thrice before descending into the brine.  The young hours of our afternoon saw Etch-A-Sketch join in these otherworldly behaviors, and the rain pooling upon our cameras and decks could not keep us at bay for a later return.

Periscope Down, Rich W D


12:00 PM

Hello whale lovers! I hope you all like photos because do I have a boatload (see what I did there) for you!!

Today was super fun in spite of (or because of?) the rain.  For much of both trips we had heavy rain, but that didn’t stop our passengers from getting out to see some fantastic whales aboard the Sanctuary.

For the 12 PM we joined up with the Aurora finishing up their trip with some humpback whales in the area.  We had Samara and another yet-to-be-identified whale together doing some deep bubble cloud feeding.  Another pair cruised briefly by who we met up with later on.  Samara and mystery whale moved out while we moved over to Timberline that had been with Milkweed, although the latter peaced out after the first couple minutes.  Timberline continued to do some fantastic kick feeding displays for us, and several other whales in the distance could be sighted doing the same.  What was especially awesome about Timberline’s feeding was his amazing surface lunges (see multiple photos)!  He would come very fast and well out of the water, pleats extended like a big balloon.  While we were watching Timberline, our pair from before came over to join us – Venom and her calf!  We left Timberline to another whale watch boat while we hung out with Venom, and the rain started coming down harder.  I noticed on multiple occasions today, that when the rain was pouring down the whales on occasion would lift the end of their rostrums – their heads – up out of the water.  Venom, her calf, and later Mudskipper on our second trip did this as well.  The calf seemed to do it much more, perhaps enjoying the sensation of the raindrops.  It’s interesting to see in the photo of it lifting its head that the blowholes are closed entirely.  The calf got a little playful and swishy, at one point rolling a bit as Venom went down on a dive, and then suddenly a stealthy adult surfaced near the calf.  This other adult never fluked, and simply disappeared.  Venom and calf resurfaced again a while later, and the calf also opened its mouth several times at the surface!  Similar to what Rich and the previous trip on Aurora observed, the calf did this curious behavior for just a couple minutes, showing off its baleen.  It also pushed its head above water several times, perhaps mimicking the snaking the adults do when they are straining water at the surface.  It was very fun to see this calf possibly ‘practicing’ feeding.

Until next time, Heidi


1:30 PM

Hello Whale Family, Our second adventure began with a steady smattering of rain, but like the whales our hardy boatload of explorers remained steadfast at their posts on the bow and outer decks, scanning the water with determination. We were not disappointed! Dyad and calf made up our first sighting, surfacing and fluking in tandem, much to the delight of all aboard. I was particularly excited as I had not yet seen Dyad as a mother. Our attention was drawn to another blow as Dyad and calf slipped away from our sights. This time Etch-A-Sketch! Always a joy to see, she raised her flukes in strong dives, beautifully  illustrating the variations we see in fluke patterns from one individual to another. The game of the day seemed to be Hide-and-seek, and we soon lost sight of the whales in the shroud of rain.

Though each day is different, they are all special and awe-inspiring in their own unique Stellwagen way!

Until next time!Linnea and Charlie


2:30 PM

Hello all, We returned with rain-poncho-donned passengers for our 2:30 pm whale trek and returned south. There we spent the majority of our trip with Dyad and her calf. Mom Dyad was the star of today, as she tail breached twice and flipper slapped for quite some time! Her enormous flipper pounded against the surface, while her calf remained beneath the waves. The rain certainly caught up with us for our second trip, as it poured onto hardy whale-watchers. We made for blue skies after watching a non-fluking solitary humpback and a minke whale.

Chelsi N.


3:30 PM

Greetings Persons of Pelagic Inclinations, Our 330pm return to southern waters were indeed christened by ocean showers, and we did encounter Dyad and her calf heading diligently on a southern heading.  They did ascend between dives of 6-10 minutes, but we did happen upon the apparitions Habenero and Diablo.  These enigmas were seen but for a single instant, and mayhaps the clearing of the skies can be believed as a welcoming for the days to come.

Periscope Down, Rich W D


5:00 PM

Hello whale lovers! Although it was dry when we boarded and left for our second trip, the rain didn’t stay entirely away.  However with half of the sky sunny, that formulated for some incredible rainbows.  We spotted on on the way out to whales, and another double rainbow formed while we were watching them – it was awesome to be able to see the whole curve with an entirely unobstructed view, and some whales beneath (check THAT photo out!)  We started out with brief looks at Diablo, who didn’t seem too interested in being at the surface much and moved over to our old friends Venom and calf.  We spent most of our time with these two, following them along in the rain as Venom fluked and the calf continued to bounce at the surface, sometimes pushing its head out of the water again.  We eventually spotted Timberline doing a brief round of kick feeding, although he didn’t lunge and didn’t continue it past the one time.  As we waited for him, two other whales came through and others could be seen in the distance as well.  Our two newcomers were Mudskipper and the mystery whale with a very hooked dorsal fin from the first trip who had been with Samara.  These two seemed to do some resting at the surface and weren’t interested in fluking – luckily Mudskipper has a recognizable (giant) dorsal fin, and the other individual we had seen earlier today.  When it started to pour rain again, Mudskipper also lifted the very end of her rostrum from the water for a few moments.

As we had decided to say goodbye, suddenly Venom’s calf surfaced right near us, swimming right at our boat with its head pushed up out of the water again – it made for a very amusing sight as it came close, dove, resurfaced, and dove again just feet from our starboard side.  While looking out for the calf, a gray seal suddenly appeared right off our starboard bow as well!  This guy seemed to do some interesting rolling, and also pushed its nose up toward the rain at one point, similar to how our whales had been earlier. 

We returned to Boston, finally dry, and with a great sunset.

So often when the weather looks bad, people ask if we see any whales – but take it from our passengers today, that even in the rain you can have a fantastic time and great whales –and be rewarded with a rainbow or two as well!

Until next time, Heidi