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

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Pay to Play with a Seal Lion in Boston

New England Aquarium, Boston, Play with Marine Mammals

The New England Aquarium lets you play with their sea lions and seals. In the last few years a number of animal rescue groups and traditional aquariums have hit on the idea of, well, basically, pimping out their animals. You pay a little extra and get a little extra contact, how much depends on how much you pay.The New England Aquarium has two programs. For $30 you can feed seals, but for $125 you get to help feed, entertain and train sea lions, seals and maybe a large turtle.It’s a small group–just three–and the real trainers are incredibly gracious in letting you enjoy the fun part of their job. Still, I felt a little bit idiotic since it was me and two kids. (They say it’s about half and half adults to kids. And that often parents bring kids, but it’s obviously really for mom or dad.)We started off with the sea lions, who are soon leaving for Brookfield Zoo in Chicago. We got to see the sea lions’ kitchen and warm indoor pool. When we went outside, the sea lions, Guthrie, an 838 pound mush, and Ballou, a younger, smaller and more shy sea lion.Guthrie watches the crowds and came by as soon as we walked in–assuming it was feeding time. We got to feel his thick wet fur, massive fins. We each put fish in his mouth, which was big but full of worn down, black teeth so not

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