Scientific Name: Megaptera novaeangliae Size: up to 50’ Weight: approximately 40 ton Status: Least Concern
The Humpback Whale is the most sought after species when it comes to whale watching. These large baleen whales have a reputation of spending more time at the surface, more social, and more likely to display those amazing acrobatic behaviors like breaching.
These whales are dark grey to black in color with white pectoral flippers (although the Pacific populations tend to have darker flippers). These flippers are rather large at about 15’ in length and can make up about 1/3 of the whale’s entire body size. On the tops of their heads are a series of bumps known as tubercles or stove bolts which are actually overgrown hair follicles. In each tubercle is a single sensory hair which is thought to aid them in finding prey. They also have flukes that measure about 15-18’ wide from tip to tip which acts as a living billboard as every whale has its own unique pigmentation pattern which allows researchers to individually identify them.
I’ve been fortunate enough to experience watching Humpback Whales during both cycles of their lives, the feeding cycle up here in the Gulf of Maine and the breeding cycle down south on Silver Bank. The behavioral differences are pretty incredible. Up here on the feeding grounds they’re here to bulk up and gain weight to survive the winter months while they’re fasting. As a result, they focus primarily on feeding and seeing surface activity isn’t overly common. They’re also known to be gentle giants up here as they don’t really show much hostility or aggression towards one or other.
On the breeding grounds, it’s a completely different story. They’re much more surface active and the males tend to be very aggressive towards each other as they fight for mating rights. I’ll never forget seeing my first rowdy group back in 2014. The “gentle giants” as I knew them from up north, were hitting each other with their flukes and flippers, charging at each other, and breaching on or very close to each other. When mating rights are on the line, it’s very serious business!
Because Humpbacks are my favorite… my main passion… I have several thousand photos of them. I’ve tried to narrow down my selection as best as I could and have them broken down by season to make viewing them easier. You’ll notice that some of the links in the pull down menu say the year with Silver Bank next to it. Those are photos just from the breeding grounds on those years. The remaining pages are from up here on the feeding grounds.
"We owe it to our children to be better stewards of the environment. The alternative? - a world without whales. It's too terrible to imagine." ~ Pierce Brosnan