The Atlantic Ocean east of Chatham is famous for large seasonal concentrations of whales. Many whale species call Cape Cod home for the summer including Humpbacks, Finbacks, Blue, Minke, Pilot and endangered Northern Right Whales. Atlantic White-sided dolphins are also common visitors. Take a private cruise on the Dragonfly to see these incredible creatures as they feed and play in their natural environment.
Humpback Whales are by far the most numerous of the whale species we encounter. They grow to 40 to 50 feet long and weigh up to 80,000 pounds. Humpbacks breed in the tropical and subtropical oceans and then migrate thousands of miles to feed for the summer in the nutrient-rich waters of Cape Cod. One of the humpbacks’ most common feeding behaviors is called bubble feeding. After locating a school of bait with their exceptional echo location capabilities, the whale will dive and circle around and below a school of bait, blowing bubbles the whole time. These bubbles rise toward the surface creating a circular curtain that spooks the bait fish into a concentrated school. The whale swims up through this column of bubbles with its wide open mouth engulfing everything until it reaches the surface, where it closes its mouth, screening all the seawater over large strainers in its throat (called baleen) and swallowing the bait. The sight of these gentle giants arriving at the surface with their mouths wide open and then slowly closing is one of the most incredible in the natural world. Screaming seabirds looking for scraps provide audiovisual background to the sights and sounds of the whales feeding and breathing.
All of the whale species are very efficient hunters, leaving them with lots of spare time for socializing and playing. Frequent play behaviors of humpback whales include “breaching”, (jumping out of the water, and landing with a huge splash) “slapping”, (pounding the water with 20 foot long pectoral fins) and “lobtailing”, (a sideways twisting motion with their powerful tails). Most of these play behaviors are often thought to be a form of communication between the whales. After a prolonged time playing we sometimes see the whales “logging” (lying almost motionless on the surface – a family naptime of sorts). Often the whales that we are watching from a safe distance will circle closer out of curiosity, enjoying a people watch while we enjoy a whale watch! When this happens we take the boat out of gear, (to make sure no harm comes to the whales) and enjoy the close interaction with one of the largest, gentlest and most intelligent mammals on the planet. Seeing these beautiful creatures from the deck of the boat at sea level is an incredible experience that will stay with you for the rest of your life.
Whale watching trips aboard the Dragonfly depart from River Road in Orleans.