One of the most fascinating experiences I’ve ever had is going on a whale watch. It is absolutely stunning to take a boat out into the ocean and then bob on the waves in the quiet while watching whales feed, blow, play, and slap their fins on the water. When this happens you truly are standing in the presence of nature’s giant and gentle beasts.
On Monday, a gorgeous sunny day with minimal wind and one foot waves, we boarded the Yankee Freedom and traveled approximately 1 3/4 hours to Stellwagen Bank at the mouth of the Massachusetts Bay. Stellwagen Bank is a National Marine Sanctuary where whale watching originated on the east coast.
It takes some time to locate the whales as they are always moving in search of food. So, before our first sighting, here are some shots of the scenes we passed on the way.
Our whale watching boat had several members of an Elderhostel who were visiting the east coast from various places across the country. I loved the shot below of one of the couples. Aren’t they sweet?
And this woman made me smile with her whale shirt and nautical hat.
Whale watches are great experiences for kids too.
When we started the trip, this flag was wrapped around the mast. Once we were out to sea it unfurled beautifully.
And then we had our first sighting.
Off in the distance you’ll see a whale’s tail or fluke. Notice all the seabirds flying around the area. These whales were feeding! We’ve never seen this before on any whale watch.
Here you’ll see the whale with his mouth wide open. We were told the whales were following and eating tiny eels that they rustled to the water’s surface. The seabirds are shearwaters and seagulls. If they get too close they might also become whale food.
Here are two whales. One is facing us, right side up. His friend is upside down waving his right dorsal fin in the air.
Um, that whale is coming right toward us.
Did you know whales eat 3,000 pounds of food per day?!
When whales dive, they might stay underwater for up to 30 minutes.
On this trip we saw Humpback, Minke, and Finback whales. The Humpback whales are the most animated. If they are especially playful you might see them breach (jump out of the water.) That is an unbelievable sight to behold. On this trip the whales tended to display their flukes and wave their dorsal fins. Many of the whales that pass through Stellwagen Bank are identified by their flukes and given names accordingly.
The closest that the whale watch boats are allowed is 100 feet of the whales. Somewhere between 100 and 300 feet is the preferred minimum. At that distance the boats are only allowed stay for 15 minutes. And as the whales move, so does the boat…slowly.
If a right whale is sighted, the minimum distance allowed is 500 yards. All boats must cease whale watching and return to port 15 minutes before sunset.
For more exciting pictures and video of whales breaching, visit Seven Seas Whale Watch
To make a donation in support of whale conservation and protection, visit the American Cetacean Society, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, or the Atlantic Whale Foundation. To support the Stellwagen Bank Marine Sanctuary, click here.
To learn more about the International Whaling Commission, click here.