5 Humpbacks and 70 Dolphin
Some of the best days I have had photographing Humpbacks here in the Western NY Bight as Gotham Whales photographer have been on those days where its dark, grey and foggy. So, when conditions get like this I get my gear ready for a good day.
Saturday, October 14th going out on the Humpback Whale and Dolphin Adventure on the American Princess. The ocean was 3-6ft, very light winds with cloudy dark conditions and some fog at the start and as the day went on it lightened up towards the end. We had a nice crowd on the AP along with Artie Kopelman the director of CRESLI. I always learn something new about humpbacks when Artie K's around so he is always a welcome sight. Last time I saw Artie it was on his incredible "CRESLI Great South Channel trip". I was thinking to myself this trip better be a good one!
The run started off fast with 6-8 Inshore Bottlenose Dolphins as soon as we got into the Atlantic Ocean. Looked to be a few adults with calves. They were very close to the boat moving slowly, we stayed with them for 10 minutes or so and moved on looking for whales. In transit to find whales there were a few more Dolphins here and there but again were looking for the humpbacks, we need to see humpbacks!
Half an hour later we came upon our first humpback that just did a lunge feeding way off. We got closer, I scream “10 O’CLOCK” as the humpback blasted out of the water with a backwards breach and then another. WOW the sound of the back of the whale slapping on the water was so loud and the splash was gigantic. I turned to Artie Kopelman and said laughingly wow that was shockingly loud, that’s gotta hurt! He laughed and said we will never know!
The whale settled down and went into mellow mode with blows and dives so we focused on finding other whales and moved on.
On a whale watching boat the direction of where the whale is spotted gets called out as a time, like the numbers on a clock. Think about the boat being a clock, the Bow is always 12 o'clock, Starboard side is 3 o'clock, Stern is 6 o'clock, Port is 9 o'clock and any time or location in-between can be called. When a time is called out "HUMPBACK 6 O'CLOCK" the whale is at the back of the boat. It aint perfect, and it gets confusing at times but it works!
Off in the distance we saw another whale breach at 10 o’clock! (that’s #2), Seconds after that someone screams "3 O'CLOCK A HUMPBACK!" (that’s #3), seconds after that "6 O"CLOCK ANOTHER HUMPBACK" (that’s #4) We were surrounded by humpbacks, literally! Are you kidding me, four freaking Humpbacks!
Captain's Tom and Frank chose to stay with the humpback that was closest, followed it for a while and we can still see the other whales that we left behind, some are breaching others are lunge feeding. Its real hard to keep up with all these whales around the boat, yes, it’s a good problem to have.
The whale we respectfully started to follow met up with one of the other humpbacks we were watching earlier. The two were getting closer, they met up, were side by side for like a minute and then both went in totally different direction. One Humpback went west the other humpback we followed went east.
The area the whale was traveling to had a large amount of bunker in closely scattered bait balls, snapping away on the surface of the water. We all knew this whale was going to take advantage of the bait balls.
He drove through feeding on a few bait balls of bunker under the water, the bunker reacted by scattering up and out creating what's called a "Boil". The humpback, still not taking a breath after the last two underwater feedings the humpback finished off with a very good lunge feed. While that lunge feeding was ending I looked to my right and screamed “2 O’CLOCK” (that's #5)...YES, we have a fifth whale!
Throughout the day there were many dolphins in and around the whales. Most of the time they were interacting with the whales which is very cool to see.
It was time to go and we were a good 45 minutes away from Riis Landing. I know we are going to meet up with the one whale that went west. 20 minutes into the ride back and we see the humpback moving west, get a shot, look at it and its NYC0061 aka “New Jersey”. I know this because unfortunately NJ was hit by a boat about a few weeks ago and the markings of that collision are on its back.