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Naturalists Notes
Naturalists Notes 9-15-18

September 15, 2018

10:00 AM

Greetings Terrestrians, Our 10am excursion to the southwest tendril of Stellwagen Bank brought us upon mirrored seas laden with a dozen Humpback whales.  Of our first sightings we identified Komodo, Perseid, and Tongs, swimming in concert with a fourth unknown leviathan.  Komodo recently was sighted with an entanglement of line through the mouth and wrapped upon the flanks, but this behemoth dispersed without another encounter.  The scientists and rescuers of the Center for Coastal Studies has been informed of this brief encounter, and no gear was visible on our single inspection.

Flounder and Freckles were witnessed in synchronicity, permitted views of flipper and jaw through a periscope of glassy seas.  Dross and her 2018 calf were also viewed from our steely vessel, crossing south with intent.  But it was an interrogation by a curious Samara that held our attention. 

Samara is a female humpback whale of frightening enormity, and she made her scale apparent as she swam under our port pulpit.  She hovered idly under our hull as our engines were clutched out-of-gear, with her fluke visible from port and her head glistening upon starboard.  She continued to lurk in the shadow of the M/V Aurora, drawn to exhalation between inquiries of both passenger and boat. 

For forty minutes this whale claimed us as her prize, and only when the M/V Sanctuary approached did she exchange us for another captive audience.  The only misfortune for this encounter is that passengers will not be believed by land dwellings of their whale captor, as to be held hostage by a whale is not common.  We abided by whale watch regulations that ask us not to engage engines with a cetacean near, to ensure safety of human and non-human persons.

Periscope Down, Rich W D


11:00 AM

Wow, wow, and wow! What a morning we had aboard the Sanctuary. We left the dock at 11 a.m., eager for some whale sightings and boy did we get some. As we approached the southwest corner we passed a pod of harbor porpoises zipping through the ocean. We then came upon a flurry of activity form about 12 scattered humpback whales, including a flipper slapping quartet containing Perseid, Tongs, and Komodo. However, our target was the Aurora, who was being mugged by Samara. We made our way over hoping that she would check us out so our fellow whale watchers could begin their journey home, and at the sight of some glowing green flippers directly under our pulpit, knew we had accomplished our mission. For some time, Samara continued to roll around under the boat, occasionally spyhopping and checking out our vessel. Other whales could be seen flipper slapping, and a mola mola made its way over as well. As Samara slowly drifted away from us, we took the opportunity to head south and take a look at two very surface active whales. Pitcher and GOM-1228 greeted us with four flippers in the air, followed by a very forceful fluking dive. Two whales then erupted from the ocean, and proceeded to continue double breaching and flipper slapping for the remainder of our time with them. After a simultaneous fluking dive, we began to make our way back toward Boston. As we were spotting on our way off the bank, I happened to look into the water at the right time and notice a small sea turtle! We determined it to be a juvenile Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, a species known to turn up on New England beaches cold stunned. Though I hail from Florida, where sea turtles are quite common, I could not contain my excitement of seeing one out in the open ocean. All in all, an exciting morning on the water, making us eager to return for the 3:30 whale watch.

Flukes up! Ashlyn and Caroline


12:00 PM

Hello all, Today, we made preparations for choppier seas, but as our noon whale watch made way to the southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank, we were delighted to find catspaw sea conditions beneath our hull.

Our first sighting for the day were two minke whales hanging out near Minot’s Light. They surfaced quickly but we were able to get some excellent looks at these creatures, even being able to hear them exhale!

A bit further on, we came across the deceased minke whale seen on yesterday’s trips. This sighting was a difficult one to take in in many respects, but provided an educational opportunity to discuss with those onboard the threats large whales face as well as the natural recycling of nutrients in the environment. In an unsettling juxtaposition, a blue balloon happened to be floating nearby the minke, which our crew promptly picked up from the water to dispose of properly.

We then reached Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, and spotted our first humpback of the day, Milkweed! Milkweed stayed under the surface for a bit, but two more humpbacks surfaced on the opposite side of the boat! Wyoming and Tornado took a few breaths at the surface before descending below.

Milkweed’s rostrum then peeked out of the water, only to be followed by a full spyhop! It was delight to see, and we were able to point out the tubercles on this whale’s head! She spyhopped a second time, even lifting the tip of her flipper above the surface. Milkweed then descended and left Wyoming, her momentary companion, to snooze.

We continued on to get looks at another pair, Bounce and Mudskipper. Two more whales were spotted: an unidentified individual, and an unmistakably high fluking dive from Salt! After picking up some more marine debris floating on the surface, and with a final look at the Grand dame of Stellwagen, we made our way back to Boston.

Chelsi N.


2:30 PM

Greetings Terrestrians, The 230pm excursion aboard M/V Sanctuary brought eager minds to the southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank, where we came across Dyad and calf in the close company of Wyoming.  The three voyagers were in a state of slumber as they drifted along the photic zone, but Wyoming did encroach to spyhop amidst our bow-riders!  The triad did bolt in a single instant to end the awakening encounter, and we so we pushed onward.

For a single moment we encountered Dome and Salt, the queen regent of Stellwagen Bank.  The first of our population to be coronated with an official title, Salt revealed her crown of white dorsal-skin before descending.  To the south we also encountered a sleepy association of Echo and Wizard, and the latter enchanted us with a wave of her pectoral wand.  The trip was concluded with an encroachment of Nine, the fifth and last female Humpback introduced to our travelers.

Periscope Down, Rich W D


3:30 PM

For the 3:30 p.m. whale watch, we once again returned to the southwest corner aboard the Sanctuary. Our first sighting was certainly a special one, local celebrity Salt was seen traveling with another female humpback, Dome! These two lingered at the surface and then each took beautiful high fluking dives. It’s always a treat to see our leading lady, and after they dove we moved to another pair engaging in some surface activity. Tongs was participating in some inverted tail lobbing, while Perseid emerged and immediately began flipped slapping. We admired the power of these two adult females, creating percussion on the glassy seas. We noticed another whale begin breaching in the distance, and this whale eventually moved closer to reveal itself as Cosmos. She flipper slapped a few more times, and then led us right back to Salt and Dome! The pair’s rapid surfacings suggested they were feeding beneath the surface, and with a few last looks at these whales, we turned west. We were interrupted by Nine, who made a quick appearance off our starboard side before taking a fluking dive, a wonderful way to end a spontaneous whale watch!

Flukes up! Ashlyn and Caroline