Big Splash: Following the Whales Off Gloucester [video]


You wouldn’t know that whales are threatened with extinction watching this show. I am in a Whale Watching Boat on the Stellwagen Bank, a national marine sanctuary southeast of Cape Ann, Massachusetts, watching a performance of hefty gymnasts: humpback and fin whales. I have spotted a couple gray whales off of the coast of California but never any this big and up close. Here, whale watching boats offer a money back guarantee. You WILL see whales. I do.

Congress established this feeding ground for Leviathans in 1992. It is rich with whale-fattening calories, schools of sand lance, a small fish that whales suck into their enormous maws by the thousands. They need fuel for their long trip to their breeding grounds which, in the case of humpbacks, can be as much as 5 thousand miles away. A guide from the Whale Center of New England points to a blue patch in the water which which she calls a bubble cloud. The humpbacks corral their prey in a cloud before they scarf it down in one gulp. There are an estimated thirty thousand humpbacks left in the world.

We also spot a fin whale and her calf, marked by a shark-like dorsal fin. She went over on her side and flipped us a fin as if offering a salute. Larger than humpbacks, fin whales can grow as long as 88ft and weigh as much as 80 tons. Even a newborn tips the scales at two tons.

We sailed out of Gloucester harbor on a boat managed by Captain Bill and Sons, which is affiliated with the non-profit Whale Center of New England, which provides guides.

Here is a video.


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