The previous day’s winds continued to blow hard out of the east on June 16, and the fleet stayed close to the northern extent of Cape Cod, among nearly two dozen minke whales charging about at the surface off Race Point.
Despite the choppy seas, dozens of gray seals, a harbor seal, and a pair of fin whales were also seen before the last trip of the day ended. The following day, June 17, the seas were calmer and the Dolphin Fleet was able to head back north to Stellwagen Bank. The last time humpback whales had been seen, they were swimming southeast in the evening two days earlier, so the naturalists and crew wondered if they might find any at all.
Out of the several humpback whales that had remained on the southern edge of the Bank over the past weeks, only Division was sighted. However, Boomerang and her calf was seen shortly afterward, followed later by Tulip and her calf and a 26-year old female named Owl, all of which had been seen rarely or not at all in 2012. Several minke and fin whales were also sighted. More ‘new’ humpback whales were sighted on June 18, including Orbit, Hancock, and Scylla and her calf. Another humpback whale, Sabot, was spotted with a line through her mouth and entangling rope trailing behind. Our colleagues at the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies arrived quickly as the Dolphin IX stood by and removed much of the gear that threatened the whale’s life. Several basking sharks were also sighted, thrilling passengers with their sheer size, their huge gill slits concealing the baleen-like gill rakers they use to strain plankton from the water, much like right and sei whales.
Boomerang and her calf were also among the humpback whales sighted, and they were seen again on June 19, along with Hancock. Boomerang’s calf rolled, tail-breached, and lobtailed, delighting passengers with the acrobatic display, the meaning of which is unknown.
A number of minke whales were spotted amid a dozen boats fishing for bluefin tuna on the southern edge of Stellwagen Bank, as well as a fin whale and a pair of basking sharks, the second largest animal and the second largest fish in the world, respectively. The following day, June 20, Scylla and her calf and Hancock were among the humpback whales sighted on the Bank, along with lots of minke whales, a fin whale, and a harbor seal.
On June 21, the whales were spread out across the waters of Stellwagen Bank to deeper water to the southeast. Several minke and fin whales were sighted, as well as several humpback whales, including Orbit, Hancock, Scylla and calf, Boomerang and calf, and an unidentified mother and her calf, which breached repeatedly near the Dolphin VIII.
Hot weather and hazy skies, typical of summer, set the stage as the Dolphin Fleet boats headed north on June 22, about ten miles up onto Stellwagen Bank, where humpback mothers continued to feed and nurse their calves. Scylla, Tulip, and Boomerang were among the mothers seen, and several other humpback whales were spotted towards the end of the day.