Our whale watching here on Cape Cod these past few weeks has been “the best in years”, as said a veteran whale watch captain! Recent trips have been spectacular, with large numbers of feeding humpback and finback whales. This years’ abundance of sand eels has drawn whales in like a magnet and they continue to take advantage of this easy to catch prey. Finally, in the past week, a living piece of New England’s whale legacy has returned. The Charles W Morgan, the last wooden square rigged whaling vessel in the world, came through the Cape Cod Canal, and headed first to Provincetown, and then to Stellwagen Bank on her 38th voyage!
Humpback whales have been the stars of our show with ten to up 75 individuals being seen at various It appears that the population explosion of sand eels or sand lance is widespread across Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and this has brought lots of different individuals from all over. Most of whale watches have been taking place in the vicinity of the Bank’s southwest corner as whales drop in to sample the daily fare.
Some of the whales are staying put and others come and go like diners at a food show. We have observed kick & bubble feeding by individuals and groups, we have seen collective bubble netting in groups to 10 whales. Mother humpbacks with their 2014 calves have been using the banks’ resources for feeding themselves and teaching their kids. It has been simply amazing.
Humpback whales can be identified as individual markings on their tails and we have seen lots of whales we know. Old friends like Salt, Pepper, the first humpbacks named in the 1970s have been seen. Other individuals of younger generations have been identified as well. For those who are familiar, here’s a few of the whales we have seen: Putter, Grackle, Measels, Cygnus, Rapier, Warrior, Agassis, Splice, Buckshot, Habenero, Shimmer, Firefly, Tongs & , Some of the mothers and calves have included- Reaper/calf, Etch-a-Sketch/calf, Ganesh/calf, Echo/calf, and Frost/calf.
Finback whales, the second largest animals in the world after blue whales have been present in unusually high numbers. A recent trip counted over a dozen in the immediate area. Fast, sleek and beautifully patterned, a feeding finback whale is an impressive sight to behold. If their feeding happens at the surface they literally push a wake as they explode at the surface!
Finally, this past week, the Charles W Morgan, America’s oldest commercial vessel still afloat, and the last square rigged whaling vessel in the world paid a visit to Stellwagen’s waters. Built in 1841 in New Bedford, Massachusetts, she undertook 37 whaling voyages during her service. Her expeditions lasted up to three and one half years, and took her around the world. She and her crew survived everything from pack ice to cannibals, but always returned with her hull and crew intact. She was known as the ‘lucky boat’ for her service record.
After a five and one half year total restoration in Connecticut’s Mystic Seaport, she returned to historic whaling ports in New England before heading to Stellwagen Bank this past weekend to study, not hunt the whales. She is truly an impressive sight under full sail and she underlines the paradigm shift in our relationship with whales here on Cape Cod, and in all of New England.
Seabird activity has been impressive with Cory’s Sooty, Great, and Manx shearwaters, Wilson’s storm petrels, Northern Gannets, seen on most recent trips! The birds are here for the whales, and you should be too! Don’t let this incredible season slip by without a visit with the whales!