9 am and 2 pm trips - Fred
It was an overcast day with a SE breeze -- sometimes that can mean damp conditions and poor visibility, but luckily we had dry air and excellent visibility all day. The wind was lighter in the AM than in the PM, and the SE sea increased from 1-2 feet in the AM to 2-3 feet in the PM. We never noticed any swell. It was a good day for whale watching for the crew and passengers aboard the Tails of the Sea.
On both trips we traveled to the SE Corner of Stellwagen Bank to observe a couple dozen humpbacks and a couple minke whales, but that's where the similarities between the two trips end. On the AM trip every whale we saw was actively surface feeding on sand lance in a relatively small area (about a square mile or so). On the PM trip there was almost no feeding apparent, the whales were scattered more widely, and several of the humpbacks exhibited non-feeding active behaviors (breaches, lobtailing, and flippering mostly).
The most significant observation occurred on the AM trip, where we saw an adult female humpback whale named Venom, who has been seen by many a Massachusetts whale watcher since she was born to Cardhu in 1996 (Venom was Cardhu's sixth known calf - Cardhu in turn has been seen in Massachusetts since 1981). We saw Venom feeding, apparently quite normally and quite actively (employing kick feeding, where a whale slaps the surface of the water with its tail flukes, and then dives to catch the fish that may have been stunned or confused by the slap's percussion and/or the cloud of bubbles resulting from the slap) along with some of the other humpbacks. However, what was very, very different this time was that Venom was missing the outer third of her right tail fluke, likely due to trauma of some sort.
Whether Venom's right fluke injury is the result of contact with a ship's propeller or not I do not know, at least at the time I am writing this. However, the fairly straight wound is unlikely to have been the result of "natural causes" - most likely the injury is the result of contact with The Most Dangerous Species on This Planet, and seeing such a beautiful animal maimed for life was sobering to all aboard our vessel. Sure, "accidents can happen", as we all know, but many so-called accidents can be prevented, too. There are definite rules that all boats are required by federal law to observe while in the vicinity of whales, and the possibility that Venom's injury may have been caused by careless or clueless human behavior on the water is very, very sad.
I do wish for as complete a recovery as is possible for Venom, who fortunately will most likely survive and continue to grace Stellwagen Bank with her presence for many years to come.