Thursday, August 7, 2008

Whale Watching at Stellwagen Bank

Erald Pelari
Thursday August 7, 2008
Objective: See as many Whales as possible
Weather: Cloudy
Temperature: Around 70 degrees
Water: 3 Foot waves

Today we were scheduled to go whale watching at Stellwagen Bank about one and a half hours away from Boston Harbor. We got on the boat at around 9:30 AM, and began our trip shortly thereafter, since our group was last to get on board. Once the ferry left Boston Harbor we stated picking up speed, and since we were going against the waves the trip was a little bumpy. I was not feeling very good but I decided to go out on the deck and breathe in some fresh air, to help with my dizziness and my stomach. I would say that the boat was going at least 40 mph, and one could see the way it was breaking the waves and the water splashing at least 7-10 ft in the air. It was an awesome experience.

After an hour or so we reached Stellwagen Bank, and one could see that we were approaching the area where there were whales because other ships were circling the area as well with people standing on the side of the ship looking at the Whales. I had never seen a whale in person my whole life, so I did not know what to expect. I had seen them on TV and movies but I was in for a surprise. They looked defiantly bigger then when you see them on TV. The first whale that I noticed was about 200 yards away from the boat. I noticed it due to the water fuming up from its blowholes (the opening on the top of its head that releases water after they dive in).
Then we started seeing a lot more whales up close. The first one was a humpback whale. It was huge and its tail fin was humongous as well. I had never seen such big living creatures in my life. The fin on its back was also curved. Then we saw other whales mostly humpback whales on the water. Some of these whales had white bellies and black color on the back. Some of their flippers and tails were white underneath. I also saw a whale that had a black to grayish tail underneath. A couple of whales came very close to the boat about 10 ft away from the side. It was an incredible scene. Most of the whales were swimming in twos and threes.
At one time I saw a school of 7 whales swimming together side by side in rows of 2s and 3s. What a sight? I will never forget that scene. They were swimming together and dove down in motion. The first two went in first, and then the next three and the last two followed. They were incredible to look at. According to the guide speaker they had come in this area for feeding. They stay here until October and then move south for the winter. Stellwagen Bank is very nutritional with various planktons and small fish like herring. When we got there a few of the whales were laying on the water, and according to the guide woman they might have been sleeping. Apparently whales sleep in 25 minute intervals. But they still need to blow water from their blowholes. When sleeping whales shut down one side of the brain (Can not remember which side I think the left side).
I also saw a group of 3 whales swimming in a circular motion. (Please see picture below) They were all coming out from a dive, which takes them about 5-7 minutes. After they dive they need to come out and breathe air since they are mammals and can only hold their breath for so long. The three whales had white flippers, and their flippers were at least 5 ft long. I can imagine the speed the whale gets when diving down and moving those flippers.
After watching whales for half an hour or so we headed back to Boston. The ride back was less bumpy and the sun came out increasing the temperature a little bit. The ride was less bumpy due to us moving on the same direction as the waves but the waves might have died down a little bit. All in all this was on of the best days in the class. Not to take anything away form the trip to the island, but this by far out performed the other trips.

Some Tips:

Please take one of those pills that help you not throw up. (I did not puke but my stomach was not feeling very good and I wish I had taken one of those pills)
The best thing to fight seasickness is to stay outside and breathe fresh air
Make sure you bring a jacket with you, moving in Open Ocean waters tends to get a little chilly, especially in Boston
Bring a camera with you
It is best to stay on the top deck if you want to have a 360 degree view of the waters
When traveling stay on the first deck, but when looking at the whales the top-deck is best
There is no need to get all squished in one place, if the whales are in one side 5 minutes later you will see them on the other side
If you want to take a closer look at whales stay below deck, but hope one of them will swim up close to the boat.

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