It was a gray day offshore, cold and damp, but not as windy as predicted, and there was excellent visibility for spotting whales.
Aboard the Tails of the Sea we ended up just a bit NE of the SW corner of Stellwagen Bank, where there were a dozen or so humpback whales scattered about. Many of the whales were solitary and seemed to be feeding during long dives, spending little time at the surface. However, there were two mother/calf pairs present, spending more time at the surface, and so we spent most of our time with them.
We were not able to identify the first mother whale because she did not lift her tail flukes in the air (and it usually is the markings under the tail flukes that we use for identification). However, we were able to recognize the second mom as Nile almost immediately. Nile has a very hooked dorsal fin, which is not common but is also not unique. Nonetheless, she does have what looks like a large white "smudge" (which is actually a complex group of white markings) at the base of the right side of the dorsal fin (see photo above) that is indeed unique. (We did get to see Nile's tail flukes later on, shortly before heading home, for ID confirmation.)
We witnessed apparent nursing behavior by both mother/calf pairs, and we also had a close approach (a "Close Encounter of the Whale Kind") by the first pair (especially by the inquisitive youngster - see top photo), and that first calf also breached once, which probably was the high point of the trip for many of the passengers.
Our boat was not the only boat in the vicinity of whales near the SW corner - the Research Vessel "Auk", operated by the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, was also in the area, presumably doing some research on the whales there (see photo above). However, on such a steel cold fall day, there were no other boats within several miles of us.