Watchable Whales

The first week of July is when many Boston area locals head for the hills, or the shore, while vast numbers of tourists flood in to town to visit the Freedom Trail, Haborfest and Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular.

Of course, another popular activity is whale watching (Trip Advisor). That is because it’s only a short 25 mile trip out to Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (Wikipedia). Stellwagen Bank hosts several different species of large whales, including humpbacks, finbacks, minkes, pilot whales and right whales. If you’ve never seen a whale in person, then it is hard to imagine how surreal it is to be in the presence of such an immense creature.

Here’s a short two minute video of a Boston Harbor Cruises Whale Watch shot by DronePros that shows a particularly unique perspective of the experience.

If you do happen to be in Boston and want to find out more about whales, then be sure to check out the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism’s Massachusetts Whale Trail. It is a map with links to over 40 whale-related experiences.

Okay, so watching whales from the surface is fascinating, but an even more impressive experience is to see them in their full glory underwater. Hardly anyone has the gear, experience, or sheer guts to go out and do that for themselves, though. Luckily, there are some underwater photographers that do, and a few even share the view. Here’s a 360° Video of a humpback whale and its calf swimming near Reunion Island.

That’s a memorizing view, but it leaves you wanting more, doesn’t it? I must confess that I’m usually one to prefer the real thing over simulation, but I can’t help but prefer Wevr’s 360° Video the Blu Whale Encounter that brings you eye to eye with an 80 foot blue whale. Gulp!

Finally, as impressive as those experiences have been, none of them show the whale’s grace and beauty like this clip of humpbacks in the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. It was captured by divers filming Jean-Michel Cousteau Ocean Adventures, and it was featured in the two hour America’s Underwater Treasures (PBS)

Absolutely beautiful!

There is one cautionary note.

Back in August of 2014, two articles by Daniel Cressey brought some unfortunate realities about whale watching to the public’s attention.
Ecotourism rise hits whales (Daniel Cressey, Nature)
Whale-Watching Found to Stress Out Whales (Daniel Cressey, Scientific American)

While experts agree that whale watching isn’t very healthy for the whales, it’s a multi-billion dollar industry, so few of them believe that the practice is likely to stop. Instead, they back a movement to encourage more responsible practices for dealing with whales in the wild. For example, her’s a PSA from the Vancouver Aquarium Cetacean Research Program that covers some basics of how to co-exist with whales responsibly.

In addition, one way to tell if a whale watch is operated responsibly is to check to see if the operators are a member of Whale Sense.org.

Here are more links about responsible whale watching.
Whale Watching (Animal Wellfare Institute)
Responsible whale watching (Whale and Dolphin Conservation)
Whale and Dophin Watching (Whale and Dolphin Conservation)

Find out more about whales