Before we begin our 2015 season here at Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises, we needed to finish one of 2014's most important and enjoyable off-season projects. At the end of every whale watch adventure, as the boat returns to Barnstable Harbor, our naturalist encourages everyone to share their photos, and experiences with us on Facebook. This year we had more posts than ever, and as promised, we have gone through all of your photos and picked some of our favorites.
2014 also saw an increase in submissions by professional photographers. We did not include these in our pool of posts eligible for premiums (prizes). In the upcoming year, we will be considering these submissions as a separate category and may seek to display these contributions in a separate gallery. We don't want to stifle creative pursuits of professionals nor rebuke their contributions. We love seeing what a trained eye and quick reflexes (and often times plain old luck) capture and we want to be able to share them with everyone.
All of our trips are conducted in accordance with Northeast Whale Watching Guidelines and WhaleSENSE prescribed practices. The welfare of the whales comes second only to our passenger's safety. The close-up nature of some of the photos are a result of editing by the photographer and in other cases, the whales approached us as whale we sat observing, the boat idling out of gear. Danny Wild's incredible close-up of humpback whale Colt's rostrum is just such a case. Colt, as he often does, came in to do some back-scratching and people-watching of his own volition with no attempt on our part to influence his behavior.
Thanks to everyone for contributing to our online community. We loved all of the submissions! Trust us when we say we had a tough time sifting through them, they were all great. Let us show you what we mean as we unveil 2014's best photo posts. Enjoy!
Kristy Clemente Berry captured these two humpback whales finishing a cooperative kick/ bubble feed sequence. Such efforts often begin with one whale diving below the prey to begin a concentric wall of bubble columns to corral the baitfish.The second whale begins at the surface, smacking its tail on the water before diving below.. This concussive blow, along with the chaos of the bubbles from below, confuses and frightens the fish into a tight baitball. The whales then seek to gulp the entire school and then filter their catch.
2014 was a fantastic season because there was a plentiful food resource in the form of sand lance or sand eels in the area. Lynda Briere San Souci captured five humpback whales in various stages of finishing a bubble feeding effort. In the animals front & rear-right, we can see the elastic rorquals on the lower jaw. Baleen plates are visible In the vertical upper jaws of the center & center-right animals. The closely spaced baleen plates filter the catch in the whale's lower jaw.
Way back in May, Catherine Jasmine captured this humpback whale breaching on a choppy day! Catching a whale in mid-air is a feat for any photographer, but with the deck is moving as well, the stakes are upped considerably. Nice get Catherine!
As Bill Carr's photo demonstrates, things are not always as they seem. These are three bubble feeding humpbacks, but there's little cooperative about it. Two of the individuals, humpbacks- Dome and Pleats are raiding the effort of the third whale. Upon completion of the bubble trap, the two opportunists rush in to reap the rewards at the other whale's expense. Bubble net plundering is not uncommon in humpbacks. While female humpback whale Dome is best known for her foghorn-like feeding vocalizations, her piratical tendencies have been observed for years.
Danny Wild had a close encounter of the mammalian kind when humpback-Colt came in for a close boat approach of his own volition. Colt is famous for close boat approaches where he often engages in people watching, and sometimes even back-scratching! It is important to note that the boat is out of gear and sitting still during these intimate visits in accordance with Northeast Whale Watching Guideline and WhaleSENSE prescribed operational procedures. This shot shows of the tip of the whale's snout. We love that you can see the vibrissae or sensory hairs extending from the knobby tuberacles or hair follicles! Great shot Danny!
Up to 80+ feet in length, finback whales are the second largest animal to live on earth. In 2014, we saw unusually large numbers of these leviathans hunting the shoals of baitfish around Stellwagen Bank. Michael Unold caught the long back and prominent 'french curve' dorsal fin of one of our favorite individuals-finback whale-Loon. Loon is a male finback whale that has frequented the waters around Race Point on the tip of Cape Cod for more than 20 years and is a favorite of passengers and crew!
Stu Weiss captured "a whale of a tale of a tail of whale" with this shot of male humpback whale-Putter doing some lob-tailing, a surface behavior where the fluke is repeatedly struck on the water's surface. Putter is one of Stellwagen's Top 50 humpback whales, meaning that he and the other Top 50 have a stronger bond or site fidelity to the sanctuary's waters than the Gulf of Maine's other 3000+ known humpback whales. Born in 1993 to Mars, his family tree includes other Top 50 card holders: half-siblings Nile, and Seal.
Ok, we're suckers for a good humpback breach, especially on a cold, gray winter's day. Craig Waterman's great get of a playful humpback whale calf breaching takes us back to warmer days! Thanks Craig! You can see the elastic ventral pleats or rorquals that form the throat pouch used in gulp feeding running along the belly.. The whale is executing perfect form, getting ready to land on its muscular back. Though we can only speculate, a belly flop on a whale that weighs tons has got to hurt!
With a humpback whale at the start of a dramatic feeding sequence, Ana Luiza had the presence of mind to snap the only selfie posted this year! The humpback in the background is smacking the surface with it's tail before diving below the readied bubble trap (green water around whale). This is the "kick" in kick-feeding. In keeping it together under pressure, Ana has set a high bar for future selfies!
Cue the ominous sound track for Laura Kleimeyer McCarthy's photo of a huge shark prowling the waters of Stellwagen Bank. But there's no need to fear, despite its enormous size, this basking shark feeds on the smallest of prey. We can see that this individual is actively feeding using extensions on it's gills which filter zooplankton from the the water that is entering the shark's enormous open mouth. At 25+ feet long, they are the second largest fish in the world, second only to the whale shark of tropical waters. Often mistaken for their increasingly common, and much toothier relatives, the 'great' white shark, basking sharks are often seen in the same areas where whales are active.
So that's it for 2014. Everyone whose photos were selected for this post receive 2 adult tickets for a future whale watch with us. These tickets don't expire and can be used on your next trip to Cape Cod for any trip in-season except for weekdays in August. These are our sell-out days and the boat will be packed, better to pick from non-peak sailing times. Drop us a message here on our Facebook page to let us know when you that you'll be coming and we'll make arrangements to have your tickets ready. Any further inquiries can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.