Just because spending an evening having face flattened on the aquarium glass panels and remaining motionless for hours (except eyes racing after tank inhabitants) isn’t enough for an average aquarium keeper, we need to entertain ourselves in some other ways. Beside public aquariums visits and fish store carpools, there are plenty of other activities more or less related to our hobby. In this series of articles, I’ll aim to write about some of the most interesting ideas to fill your free time and feed your creative mind…
All photographs by Kamila Sedziak
I’ve spoken to a friend of mine recently and he told me about a recent whale-watching trip he took with his family. It triggered an unstoppable series of events (thanks Marek!) and here I am writing about my trip to see the largest group of animals living on our planet.
Me and Kamila are lucky enough to live near the Atlantic Ocean’s coast and there are plenty of activities awaiting for any ocean lover here in the US North-east. Amongst the many animals that either live here permanently or call these waters a summer destination, whales are undoubtedly the most magnificent ones.
A trip north from where I live was required to see whales in the wild, and so we packed our bags and jumped in the car one warm, summer morning. Whales visit north Atlantic waters throughout the year and stay here for quite some time, depending on individual species. The best place to observe them in groups from few individuals to dozens strong is in their feeding grounds off the coast of Massachusetts’ Cape Cod. We’ve chosen to visit Cape Cod’s northernmost town of Provincetown, where few whale-watching operators make trips several times a day during the summer season. You can also book a trip from Boston and many other places in Massachusetts and other New England states if it’s closer to where you live.
The ferry trip from the port to whale feeding grounds took about 40 minutes. Upon arriving, we spotted a huge head poking out of water and dozens of seabirds surrounding it. 10 seconds later and the whale take a dive and presents it’s massive tail, flipping it with grace like it was an Olympic swimmer. We identify the animal as Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaengliae) which can grow up to 60′ (18m) and as latin name suggest, it’s the most common sea mammal residing in New England’s waters. They have long, white flippers and black and white patters on the tail which is unique and help with identification of each individual whale. Humpback whales spend spring, summer and fall in New England and farther north before migrating to Caribbean breeding grounds in the winter. The whole area near Cape Cod has been declared a marine sanctuary called Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary in 1992 and whales residing here are fully protected. There are strict rules to how close boats can approach whales without disturbing them.
Humpback whales are not the only animals that can be seen here, if you’re lucky enough you may see a critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whale Eubalaena glacialis (it is estimated there may be less than 320 individuals left on Earth) , a smaller species of Minke Whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata), an even smaller Long-finned Pilot Whale (Globicephala melas) that come to New England to hunt squid in Fall and stay till Spring, or, in contrary, the second largest animal on Earth, an endangered Finback Whale (Balaenoptera physalus) that can attend the length of 90′ (27 m). If that not impressive enough, whales are not the only animals living here. During the summer months it is common to see pods of Atlantic White-sided Dolphin (Lagenorhynchus acutus), Basking Sharks (Cetorhinus maximus) filtering water with their modified gills in search of plankton or the bizarre looking Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola) looking for jellyfish. Roaming the sky, many seabird species lay eggs and care for their young here, and on the beach you can spot Harbor Seals (Phoca vitulina) sunbathing or hunting fish during the day.
Observing whales in the wild is an unforgettable experience and I can recommend it to anyone who loves nature. A family-friendly activity, whale watching allows us to think more about our environment and animals that share this planet with us. Oh, and Provincetown is a great little port town with fantastic seafood and miles of beaches.
For more information about New England’s marine sanctuary, visit http://stellwagen.noaa.gov. Information about whale watching trips from Provincetown can be found here: www.WhaleWatch.com and the town’s official site is: http://www.provincetown-ma.gov/
I hope you will enjoy seeing whales in their natural surroundings and share your experience by writing comments to the article. Have fun and see you in the next episode of “A reefer’a things-to-do on a weekend guide”!
More pictures from our trip: