July 31

From Naturalist Hannah

It was another beautiful day out on the ocean today and we had some incredible looks at some of the large cetaceans that call the Gulf of Maine their summer home! We typically go to the south west corner of Stellwagon Bank which can be around 25 to 30 mile. Today was much different and highlights the unpredictable travel patterns of whales. Rather than heading south west, we headed east to an area near Tillies Bank. After a relatively short drive we spotted two large blows from a pair of humpback whales. These blows, also known as a spout, are one of the signs that we look for when spotting whales. The humpbacks are a medium sized baleen whale and are a common species to this area during the summer months. They can reach lengths of up to 45 feet and weigh about 45 tons! They are easily identified by their large white pectoral fins and large fluke that they sometimes bring above the surface when they go on deeper dives. If you ever Google humpback whales, the Pacific species will have black on the top sides of the pectoral fins while our Atlantic species has all white pectoral fins. The two humpbacks that we started with were traveling quite slowly. We were also able to ID then as Plateau and Perseid. Plateau was born in 1997 and Perseid in 1998. Both whales are female and both have had calves in the past. It is unknown why these whales form associations (synchronized dive and surface intervals) with each other but it is interesting to note that these whales are very close in age and size. We got a few great looks at these two humpbacks and decided to travel further east to try and locate different animals.

After a short drive, we came upon another associated pair of humpbacks. It was once thought that these whales were solitary for most of their life but our understanding of that is starting to change! Today was a great example of these informal associations. The second pair was ID as Samara and Sanchal. Samara is a young whale, born in 2008. Her mom is Scylla who is 33 years old and a very well- known individual. Sanchal is also a young whale and is smaller than Samara, so she was born after 2008. It is intriguing that we had two different associations with whales that are similar in age. We were able to travel next to these whales and they then decided to come check out the boat! They popped up right next to us and cruise towards the bow. Both whales were showing curious and close to boat behaviors. It is truly incredible to see them so close and to appreciate their massive size. At one point. Samara was hovering just below the surface next to our boat as Sanchal rolled and snaked near our bow- an amazing and humbling experience! They alternated between long surface intervals while traveling and some great close to boat activity. We ended the trip with some great looks as they continued east and made our turn towards Gloucester. In all, we had an amazing and unique trip with 4 different humpbacks!

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