humpback whale's fluke underwater
Fluke of Sockeye seen underwater

On the 11am cetacean inquisition we made haste with Captain Deb and Team Asteria for eastern Stellwagen Bank, channeling the curiosity inherent to human nature by traveling nearly 40 miles to sea. We sighted whale smoke to the north but our interest piqued with activity south of the shipping lanes. We feigned no surprise when locating a triumvirate of slothful fin whales, and from the laggard sighting stirred a mother with calf! The third fin whale dispersed to rummage through a bait ball in solitude, and within a moment we sighted six humpbacks headed for our eastern coordinates.

humpback whale fluke

The alabaster flukes and tag scarring of Wizard was duly recognized, as was her merry calf. Two more wanderers of the titles Backcheck and Daffodil sought their company, as did a fifth leviathan whose shallow fluking dives protested identification. These rorquals remained near with calculated dives under the Asteria, surfacing within flipper length to our many novice whale watchers! The quintet disbanded with the arrival of a humpback of behemoth scale, whose enormity made Wizard seem calf-ish herself!

Scarring along the tail and flukes of this juggernaut illustrated a lifetime of challenges, ranging from entanglements to toothy encounters with orcas. A lower jaw decorated with white tubercles protruded past the top of the rostrum, and this bulldog appearance was duly matched in demeanor. This creature used its chassis to segregate Wizard and her calf from the other three humpbacks, and even placed its own mass between us and the maternal pair.

The commotion of the miniscule pulpit audience attracted curiosity, for the behemoth sized up the bow and prevented any further investigation. An inquisitive gaze was given from under a scarred brow, and we heeded discretion. As this mountainous mammal rolled on its side we identified the canvas of Sockeye! The vertical thrust of the tail created a tornado which churned the briny sea, emphasizing the might of this nomad. This humpback has earned the honorary title of King of Stellwagen Bank, for never have a seen a humpback so monolithic.

As we departed for the west we bore witness to a cacophony of distant humpbacks, and we shall aspire to find them on today’s journeys.

— Rich

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