Tag Archive | Stellwagen’s Bank

Whale Watching in Cape Cod


A juvenile humpback whale flipper slaps off Stellwagen Bank, MA. This marine sanctuary serves as a primary feeding ground for humpback whales and other marine life that call it home.

A few weeks ago, I went whale watching with my Dad off Glouchester, MA and it was such a great day for the both of us. We saw at least twelve humpback whales including two mother and calf pairs, four minke whales, and two grey seals off Stellwagen Bank, a marine sanctuary that is two miles off the coast of Cape Cod, MA. The marine sanctuary, which was established in 1992, serves as a safe haven for many marine animals such as whales, dolphins, propoises, seals, and sharks. Yet, when you visit this area, you are more likely to see humpback whales and grey seals more than you are with other animal species though but still, the sight of seeing these large mammals in their natural habitat will make you feel like that you part of a scene from a wildlife documentary even though there are movie cameras around to film the moment.

Humpback whale “Etch-a-Sketch feeds with a flock of sea gulls off the coast of Proviencetown, MA.

During my whale watch, I got to see a varity of surface behaviors such as flipper slapping, tail striking, and even breaching. However, of all these behaviors, I saw the humpbacks whales feeding like crazy. For example, this one whale called “Etch-a-Sketch” did a tail flick right in front of the boat before he took a dive to create a bubble net and lunge feed at the surface with a flock of sea gulls joining him in the action and some of them “rode” on him as he continued to feed. It was such a sight to see and the krill and herring that the whales feed on is what drives these animals to Stellwagen during the spring and summer months while they migrate to waters off the Carribbean.

While scientists don’t know why humpback whales display surface behaviors such as breaching or tail slapping, it’s believed that it could be a sign of either playing, being agressive, or just another form of communication.

Just to make things intersting, we even saw one juvenile  do nothing but flipper slapping the whole we have been in the area. When we first got to Stellwagen for the day, we were “greeted” by the sight of this animal doing nothing but flipper slapping as if he was welcoming us to the sanctuary even though he may have been either being playful or just trying to communicate with other whales that were nearby. Still, he was just so busy flipper slapping that the nautralists on boasrd had trouble figuring out who he was even though they were able to indentify him as being a juvenile whale. He would continue this behavior for several minutes before he decided that he was going take a nice long dive just so we could find other whales in the area.

Going whale watching on Memorial Day was so much fun that I hope to go again next time when I have the chance to do so but I may have to wait until this coming fall for another round because that is when the whales start heading south for the winter.

Have a whale of a day,

~Jenna~

 

Right Whale Tale(s)


A female North Atlantic Right Whale swimming in a Provincetown Harbor in 2004.

Since the movie Big Miracle, a film that’s a about a grey whale rescue in Alaska is out in theaters, I thought to commemorate it by sharing with you two whale watch experiences I had with the endangered North Atlantic right whale. These encounters occurred in 2004 and 2010. 

The first encounter with a wild right whale took place in October 2004. I was 12 at the time and whale watch boat that my family and I were aboard on was just leaving the harbor to see some whales in the Stellwagen’s Bank National Marine Sanctuary which was 10 miles off of Cape Cod. About just a minute into leaving the harbor, the naturalist unexpectedly stopped the boat about 500 yards out of port; it was then, he announced that there were right whales in the harbor. He then went on to talk about the right whales when suddenly, two right whales, a mother and her calf surfaced about 150 yards from our boat and believe me, it was such a site to see. However, just as we were all enjoying the right whales swimming by the boat, two jet skiers passed by the boat and they were too close to the whales and just to make matters worse, the jet skiers were skiing to fast in the harbor. As a result, the horrified naturalist warned them that he would report them if they slowed down and stayed 300 yards away from the whales, but the skiers kept on ignoring the naturalist before he finally called the coast guard on them. That was such an unexpected day because normally, you will not find right whales swimming in harbors but rather like 10-30 miles offshore if you’re lucky.

Then about almost two years ago in March 2010, my mother and I went down to coastal town of Provincetown, Massachusetts for Easter weekend in hopes that we to try out some land-based whale watching and see some whales. One the first evening we were there, we were at Herring Cove Beach when three North Atlantic right whales were sighted just five and a half miles offshore. Although they were far away, but you were able to see them up-close via, binoculars. Just to make things more interesting, I witnessed a young right whale calf learning how to breach from her mother and “auntie”. One of the two adult animals would breach first before the calf would repeat the behavior over and over again. It was such a precious moment to watch a whale calf learn from her mother.

These two right whale encounters were just amazing and far beyond my wildest imaginations. I hope that the next time I go whale watch, I get to see some right whales again.

Have a whale of a Valentine’s Day everyone,

~Jenna~