Massachusetts is one of the premier whale watching areas in the world. It isn’t a breeding ground and the big whales rarely breach here so what makes this area so special? There are banks and shoals that the whales use as a summer feeding area that are very close to a major population center, Boston. On any given high season day more than 5000 people will get a view of the larger whales.
Perhaps the best place to leave for a whale watch is Provincetown. The main watch areas are less than an hour from the dock. P-town was the original landing spot of the Mayflower, a piece of history celebrated in the large Pilgrims Monument.
I took a whale watch tour out of P-town with my parents this August. On the way out we passed three light houses, including this one, the Long Point Light.
It was only a short time out before we saw our first spout, as in, “Thar she blows.” The first whales we saw were Finback whales. more properly called “Fin Whales”. These are the second largest animals to every grace the Earth, only being beaten out by the giant Blue Whale. We only stayed with the two Fin Whales for a few minutes before heading farther out.
It wasn’t long before we came across three Humpback Whales feeding together. We stayed with these whales for quite a while. There are parts of all three whales in the picture below.
Usually we saw only one section of a whale at a time. I also took quite a few pictures where the whale went out of the frame on both sides because I was zoomed in too close. I like the view in this picture where a longer portion is visible.
The whales occasionally come up on their side and stick a fin out of the water.
This picture was taken seconds after the above picture and I think we see the tail here, though the whale is still on its side.
When they dive they often lift their tails out of the water.
I like this sequence of the tail coming violently out, going past vertical and then going down. (This is the same tail as the side view tail.)
Only a few times was I able to get a picture of the head with the knobs, though I saw the heads come up a few times.
We saw three more humpback whales on the way back in, two more together and then later one on its own.
We also saw several Minke Wales on the way back. I saw one go by just off the side of the boat. A few minutes later the captain announced that they could be seen not far from where I saw the first one. Looking I saw a couple of them breaching, there whole 7 m/23 ft body leaving the water. I tried taking pictures but missed every time. I think I saw 4 jumps. This isn’t a Minke, it’s two humpbacks, but it shows a little splash.
Besides the whales I saw several types of birds, such as the Great Shearwater, which are rarely seen from land. There are also many boats, both recreational and working boats. These days, though, the commercial fishing craft are becoming almost as rare as the whales.
After three or four hours on the water we made back to the port. Over all it was a great trip with 2 Fin Whales, at least 6 Humpback and several Minke Whales sighted.