We asked Whale SENSE naturalists to share their favorite memory from last season. Here are their stories!

Julie Taylor, Lead Naturalist, Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co.

July 22, 2020 “It was a beautiful and HOT summer day. The water was like glass. Suddenly, a passenger alerted me that they had seen a whale jump out of the water off in the distance. The whale launched itself completely out of the water a second time causing the boat to erupt in excitement. It was then I realized it was a North Atlantic right whale!! Being critically endangered, right whales provide the opportunity to discuss whale conservation with passengers. We watched in awe (from over 500 yards away) and then very slowly moved further to the east, eventually coming across another rare species-a sperm whale!”

Kristin Rayfield, Naturalist, Rudee Tours

“It was another hot and humid August day in 2020; a year that has been arduous for everyone. As we cruised along the oceanfront, a group of bottlenose dolphins quickly swam over to our boat and playfully began jumping and surfing in our wake. Much to the delight of our crew and many of our passengers, a young boy was letting out an elated squeal every time a dolphin jumped! His excitement was a refreshing reminder of how thrilling it is to be a part of someone experiencing seeing a whale or dolphin for the first time. Sometimes getting out and enjoying nature is the best way to heal and recharge! It was an experience that he, his family, and I won’t soon forget!”

bottlenose dolphin

Colin Greeley, Naturalist, Boston Harbor Cruises

“On July 18th, we headed out towards the middle of Stellwagen Bank in search of marine life.  We came across several different humpbacks in the same area, including Jabiru, Pele, Cajun, Milkweed and her calf, and Tripod and her calf!  It was spectacular as the whales luckily approached us closely, and Milkweed’s calf was even spyhopping several times!  We decided to go for a little ride and we did not have to go far to see a very large Leatherback sea turtle eating a Lion’s mane jellyfish!  This was an amazing experience as this was my first Leatherback and to see it eating was fantastic!  We even saw another Leatherback before we had to head home.  A very awesome day out on the water!”

Kate McPherson, Naturalist, Newburyport Whale Watch

risso’s dolphin

“October can be a challenging month for whale watching as storms occur more frequently, kicking up the sea state, but this day was sunny and calm. We were transiting toward an area where the captain sighted distant splashing. Anticipating common or Atlantic white-sided dolphins, I was shocked to observe the larger size and pronounced scarring on these animals- they were Risso’s dolphins! I’d never seen any in person since the species prefers deeper, offshore waters, but their markings are unmistakable. What a treat to get a look at these individuals! Any day on the ocean can be life changing.”

Kristin Young, Naturalist, Cape May Whale Watcher

May 16, 2020 “My first time out on the water this season was for our last fully virtual whale and dolphin watch, before passengers were allowed on board. Just a few minutes after clearing the inlet, we were fortunate enough to find a pair of humpback whales lunge feeding near the Wildwood shore. After months of quarantine and a late start to our season, it was a much needed dose of excitement!”

Ruth Hill, Senior Naturalist, Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co.

fin whale on Grand Manan Banks

“When the tide’s running good along the edge at Grand Manan banks the ocean surface dances in thousands of little bubbling sizzling peaks. On one fine late September day lively things also were happening below: lunge feeding fin whales. What an amazing afternoon with my favorite whale! We stood off and watched them surface, apparently settle a mouthful, then head back down after a breath or two. One decided to come over to check us out; I missed the whale eyeball-to-passenger eyeballs shot by a split second. People were entranced, and surprised. These are—fin whales?!? Absolutely!”

Laura Howes, Director of Research & Education, Boston Harbor Cruises

“On October 29th, the stars of the day were humpbacks Abyss and Lollipop – who closed approached us and spent 40 minutes under our boat! This type of behavior is always a rare treat, and we spent this entire time out of gear, which is the safest thing you can do in this situation until the whales move away from you. Luckily – we were happy to be trapped by these whales! With the clarity of the water we could see their entire bodies and experience lots of whale snarge (their breath!) hit the deck. Abyss has been known this season for its close to boat behavior, In particular Abyss liked to hang out directly under our boat, and alternated pops alongside the boat to turn to look at us – allowing us to appreciate the small details on these large animals we rarely get to see, such as the pinching of the blow holes, the hairs on its stovebolts, and the scuffs and whale lice along its body. A truly breathtaking treat!”

Carlee Dunn, Onboard intern/ticket booth employee, Cape May Whale Watch & Research Center

“It was a cloudy, rainy day, so I wasn’t sure how much we would see.  We found a few dolphins on the way out, but not much else, then out of nowhere we started seeing tons of other animals—a whale, a migration of cow-nosed stingrays, and more sharks in one area than I’ve ever seen in my life!  The entire way back to the dock we were seeing sharks, one after the other.  It made me remember just how amazing and diverse the ocean is and reminded me how lucky I was to spend my summer with CMWWRC!”

Mitchell Steinhardt, Naturalist, American Princess Cruises

“We were out with these huge bait patches of bunker right off the Rockaways. We saw a couple of blows and as we came out on the whale it just started explosively lunge feeding. This whale threw bunker everywhere as it came up to feed. We maintained the recommended distance, but it did feed close enough several times to get some AMAZING views of the inside of the mouth.”

All photos were taken while in compliance with Greater Atlantic regional whale watching guidelines. To see incredible sightings like these, book a trip with a Whale SENSE company!