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NEAQ Whale Watch: Humpback Bubble Cloud Feeding off Boston?

This weekend we got to see a pod of humpback whales bubble cloud feeding–that is cooperatively blowing bubbles to herd tiny fish into a concentration near the surface, then gobbling them up. The New England Aquarium’s‘s tour brought us close enough to the whales that we could actually see, understand and anticipate what they were doing.

You first know you’re going to see this specialized hunting technique when a huge patch of light turquoise water appears. Bubbles surface, then enormous black snouts covered with bumps (technically, tubercules or hair follicles). There’s lots of jostling and swirling, then fins and finally a “whale footprint” or eerily smooth patch of sea that, we learned, whalers first thought was leaked whale oil.

I found some discussion online that humpbacks only bubble net feed off Alaska, Antarctica and west of South America. I’m not a whale expert, so I’m not sure if this is any different from what we all saw. But we clearly got to see it a few times. We had at least three whales at it, Echo, a mother; her calf, who stuck close to her; and another whale named Zooney.

The New England Aquarium has the system down to bring whales to the masses: a huge, fast catamaran whisks you an hour off-shore into Stellwagen Bank, a shallow feeding ground and sanctuary. Right from the center of Boston you can spend three hours and $40 and see one of the most active whale-watching sights in the world. Whale-watching tours from Cape Cod, Plymouth, Cape Ann, New Hampshire and Maine all head to Stellwagen. The boat’s stable, so only a few get sick. You spend an hour speeding out to sea, an hour watching and an hour coming back. They sometimes see minke or fin whales, dolphins and basking sharks. A guy filming the trip for NOAA said it was the best he’d been on.

Not in Boston? Here are a ton of great places to see whales.

More places to see animals in the Northeast.

Got suggestions for animal watching places? Tell us.

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1 comment to NEAQ Whale Watch: Humpback Bubble Cloud Feeding off Boston?

  • Anonymous

    You have to express more your opinion to attract more readers, because just a video or plain text without any personal approach is not that valuable. But it is just form my point of view