June 14- 2:00 trip

From Naturalist Hannah-

Today was another long ride to the southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank but it was definitely worth it. The seas were calm and the sun bright as we made our way south. There were reports of a few whales in that area from the morning trip but we were unsure as to what the whales were doing. Once we had the Provincetown tower in sight, we noticed a few ‘spouts’ or exhalations, meaning we had found whales! Stellwagen Bank is a common feeding location for large whales due to the upwelling currents that push deep, nutrient rich water to the surface.

Our first sightings were of a few humpback whales swimming alone. Humpbacks are a medium sized baleen whale reaching lengths of about 45 feet. They were not swimming particularly fast and their dive times were relatively short. This is great behavior for us as most of their life is spent beneath the surface! We were able to ID one of these single whales a Mostaza’s calf from last year. The calves get named after about 3 years because the fluke pattern can change a bit in the first few years. It is exciting to see this particular animal because it means that it successfully completed its first migration alone back to the feeding grounds.

We were also aware of a few groups of whales and decided to take a look. Our first group was a trio of whales that were IDed as Spoon, Spoon’s calf and an escort. These whales were swimming in an associated group- meaning their dive times and surfacing intervals were coordinated. This trio formed a group of 4 for a short period of time then broke back into a smaller number. Unlike toothed whales like dolphins, baleen whales (humpbacks included) are generally solitary but can form informal groups for a short period of time. These associations can last anywhere from a couple of minutes to a couple of days but they are very different from the tight family groups of toothed whales.

We ended our trip with another trio of whales including Pitcher and Nile.  Nile is a very well-known whale and had a calf last year. It is exciting to see these groups and the new calves each year. Humpback are one of many endangered baleen species of whales. Whaling caused a dramatic decrease in their population but luckily, the species is slowly recovering as calves continue to arrive each spring. We got a couple of good looks at this trio then made our turn back to Gloucester. In all, we saw 10-12 humpback whales and had an excellent day out on the ocean.

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