Pronounced "say," the sei whale gets its name from the Norwegian word for the pollock species of fish, "seje" because these whales were often spotted among the pollock that feed off the Norwegian coast every year.
Its scientific name "Balaenoptera borealis" means "winged whale, northern." If you happen to be on a whale watching cruise with us, you may spot a sei whale (a rare occurrence, so lucky you!), identified by its tall dorsal fin. This species can also be identified by a "bushy" blow that is usually about 10-13 feet high (3 -4 meters).
Sei whales are fast! They are some of the fastest among the rorquals, and can go up to 34 miles per hour (55 km/hr). In order of size among all whales, sei rank fourth after blue, fin and right whales. Sperm, bowhead, Bryde's, humpback, gray, and minke whales are decreasingly smaller. Sei whales can weigh as much as 100,000 pounds, or 45,000 kilograms, and can be confused with Bryde's whales. You can show off your cetacean smarts on one of our whale watching cruises by sharing this little known bit of whale trivia with everyone: The difference between these two otherwise similar species is that the Bryde's species has three long ridges on its rostrum while the sei has one ridge.
The most endangered of all whales, the North Atlantic right whale, may be sighted on Capt. Bill and Sons whale watch cruises. Recently we've learned (with the help of the Whale Center of New England research team) this species likes to feed at Jeffreys Ledge and when our friends at the Whale Center begin their Right Whale Surveys, they do so in that area, north of Cape Ann. They also feed in the Great South Channel east of Cape Cod.
What should you know if you plan to look out for the North Atlantic right on one of our whale watching cruises? First, you can't miss them because they don't have a dorsal fin and they are black, are rather bulky, and have flippers like large paddles. The callosity patterns covering their huge heads are used to identify them by researchers, and if you bring your binoculars on your whale watching cruise, you may spot these.
Whether you're most interested in the humpbacks, finbacks, minkes, North Atlantic right whales or sei whales, or you feel a kinship with the white sided dolphins that fill the rich waters near Gloucester, we encourage you to come for our once in a lifetime whale watch cruises prepared with at least a camera. And if you are eager to spot some of the finer details on the marine life you may see, bring your binoculars. No matter what you have decided to bring with you, know that the on board naturalist and other crew members have spent many years taking guests out to sea and are ready to be of assistance.