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Naturalists Notes
Naturalists Notes 7-11-17

July 11, 2017

9:00 AM

It was another adventurous day on the Cetacea as we departed Central Wharf in the cool gray conditions in hopes of continuing the streak of great sightings on Stellwagen. As we exited the harbor we became enveloped in thick fog but carried on. As we reached the bank the fog cleared slightly, but even covering the western side, then east, and then overlapping deeper water east of the bank we barely came across a single herring gull. The mood turned ominous but knowing how surprising these wild animals could be we pushed on. Finally we were graced by the blow of not one whale but instead one big and one little whale. Hancock and her calf were a welcome sight and we watched as they lazily traveled together while remaining at the surface through the duration of our time with them.

We were already pushing the limits on time but passengers didn’t mind one bit. We said our goodbyes to the pair and started to move in the direction of Boston. Shortly after we could see two humpbacks ahead of us flipper slapping! We stopped and had some great looks at Touchdown and Music. The two were taking very short dives and staying up for long periods of time, and then Music lazily brought her long, sleek pectoral fin up, towering over the Atlantic. We had a few more looks at the pair before cruising with some very happy passengers back to Boston.

Laura L. and Colette


10:00 AM

Today we hopped on board the Sanctuary for the 10am whale watch and headed through the fog to the southwest corner of Stellwagen bank.  We were happy to find that the fog lifted a bit as the morning went on and through the haze we spotted two humpback whales.  This pair turned out to be Hancock and her calf.  They were moving slowly and before too long, they both took a dive.  Little did we know, this dive was the start to a spectacular show.  Suddenly, Hancock burst from the depths and launched into a full body breach!  She had barely hit the surface of the water before her calf also erupted upwards into a full body breach too.  We then watched in awe as this calf did spin breach, after spin breach.  Followed by too many chin breaches to count.  We eventually waved goodbye to this amazing pair and traveled on to visit two more humpbacks, Music and Touchdown, before heading back to land.  Safe to say, this trip left everyone in awe of our humpback whales power and acrobatic skills.

Until the next ocean adventure, Lorna and Eric


11:00 AM

On our 11am whale watch on 7-11-17, we headed to the SW corner of Stellwagen, where luckily the fog cleared a bit. The humpbacks during our trip seemed to all be resting, lazily moving through the sea. Our first pair we found was Music and Touchdown. Music is named for her fluke marking that looks like sheet music (due to orca bite marks), and although she often doesn’t show much of her fluke, you can still see her distinctive ocra bite marks on her dorsal fin.

We also spotted Hancock and calf, both also resting and slowly traveling. It was fun to watch the calf bow ride on the waves as it was resting, and it also began fluking for us a bit!

Sincerely, Laura H.


12:00 PM

Ho Cetacean Sages, An entry not to be depleted of imagery!! Today we boarded the Aurora for a 12pm summit on southwest Stellwagen Bank.  39 miles (33 nautical miles) from our point of origin we located our living flotsam, for Hancock and her 2017 calf heaved with seas in a stoic slumber.  We were permitted close admiration of this mysticete family for several moments before the calf began fluking for dives of 1-2 minutes in length, often resurfacing between Hancock and the vessel.  On a few occasions the youngling lifted its ventral fluke pattern for all to see, but was keen to resume surface time within a body length of mother.

We left Hancock and calf at peace for further encounters, and were soon miniaturized by Bristle and Pele, two whales collaborating in a reoccurring  association observed this week and even last season.  These titans descended on dives of 3-6 minutes, often diving in near unison.  The Humpbacks were not weary of our metal steed as they dove under our hull from starboard to port, making mice out of our passengers with their titanic scale.  Pele was apt to tail breach and thrust a mighty fluke into the air while Bristle occasionally dove without unfurling a ventral tail banner.

Our return to the west was postponed by a pod of 30-40 Atlantic White-Sided dolphin, weaving their way through the Stellwagen loom.  These odonticetes moved with purpose, traveling 11 miles northwest from their reported origins off Race Point within an hour.  A fine day at sea was had in the company of whales big and small, and may the feeding grounds be prosperous on our future adventures.

Periscope Down, Rich Dolan, Chelsi N., and Becca P.


2:30 PM

For our 2:30 trip we went back to the southwest corner of Stellwagen to test our luck again.  This time, the fog have lifted, the seas had calmed, and the sun started to peak through.  We started our journey with two humpbacks, Pele and Bristle.  These two seemed to be making their way randomly around the bank.  In the same area we started to notice more and more gulls gathering.  These birds kept diving towards the surface to pick up bait fish that were jumping right out of the water, a good indication that our whales were feeding.  We had been keeping an eye on another pair of humpbacks off in the distance, but suddenly, this other pair surface right next to our boat!  This second pair were familiar flukes from this morning, Music and Touchdown.  While Music and Touchdown headed straight for the right side of our boat, our original pair surface directly on the other side with large open mouths.  The whales had us surrounded!  Both these duos continued to crisscross near each other, but stayed in their pairs.  We waved goodbye to our feeding whales and birds and set our sights back on the city skyline.

Until the next ocean adventure, Lorna and Eric