Michael Blanton of Bourne was on the 7 am boat out of Woods Hole heading for Vineyard Haven on August 30. “We had just pulled out of Woods Hole, and there was an announcement on the PA system,” said Mr. Blanton.
“We just wanted to let you know,” the address said, “there’s a whale breaching on the port side.” Mr. Blanton said that about 100 people went up on deck along the port rail to get a closer look; it was breaching between the boat and Nobska Light.
There was some disagreement as to exactly what kind of whale it was. Michael Johnson, an able-bodied seaman on board the Martha’s Vineyard at the time, said he believed it was a juvenile humpback. He said that ferries must slow down if they are within 500 feet of a whale.
Mr. Blanton, who spent four years working as a videographer onboard a whale-watch boat, felt strongly that it was a minke whale. He reasoned that if the whale were a baby humpback, the mother would be nearby, and the mother wasn’t sighted. A minke whale is about 20 feet long, and he acknowledged that it could be confused for a baby humpback whale, which when mature can grow to around 50 feet. He also said that humpback sightings in the relatively shallow waters of Vineyard Sound are extremely rare.
Mr Blanton said that it’s unknown exactly why whales breach on the surface. They could be trying to shake off parasites. They could be trying to attract a mate. Or they could be doing it just for the fun of it. And presumably to watch all the people line up along the rail on the ferry.