Approximately thirty miles East of Boston Harbor lies Stellwagen Bank, a National Marine Sanctuary that his home to a great variety of marine life, including whales. Here are some tips for experiencing this area and some photos of whales out on the bank!
Some photos taken from one of the many whale watch boats that leave Boston Harbor daily to make the trek out to the bank. Here is a rare sight: A mother humpback whale swimming alongside her calf:
Another whale surfacing for some air:
Rising from the ocean floor up to depths less than one hundred feet, Stellwagen Bank’s floor receives enough light for plant life to grow. The area thereby creates a viable ecosystem for fish as well as marine mammals. Stellwagen covers a vast area, from the Northwest corner not far Southeast of Marblehead, MA, to the Southeast Bank off the coast of Provincetown, MA. The trip out to Stellwagen is most easily done via high speed ferry: There are several operators out of the Long Wharf area, each of which provide a quick ride out to the bank and an excellent tour in which you will likely see a whale.
For those in their own vessels, a trip to the bank can be accomplished in calm weather. From Boston Harbor, it will typically take one and a half hours. Boaters can enjoy great fishing, whale sighting, and sweeping views while out on the bank. There are however, some elements of danger in which boaters need to use caution. The area is very open ocean in which one will lose sight of land on all but the clearest days. Its best to check for a long window of good weather and light winds- if the weather turns while you are out there, it is going to be a LONG ride home. Safety devices (floatation, radio, etc) are an obvious must have, and boaters should go in pairs if possible. The bank is usually occupied with fishermen and whale watch boats on the weekend, but can be more desolate during the week or off-season. Finally, boaters need to be particularly cautious to not approach whales in compliance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Certain vessels will be speed restricted during certain times of the year for the protection of endangered Right Whales which roam the area.
A NOAA chart of the Stellwagen Bay area in the middle of Massachusetts Bay. Note the coast of the South Shore to the left of the chart, and Provincetown to the right for reference. Note the purple line representing the shipping channel, and a precautionary area nearby warning mariners of possible whale habitats. Also note the LNG terminal area on the chart- boaters coming to the bank from the North Shore should take care to avoid this area. See the link to this chart 13267 for a closer, zoomed in view and more details about the area restrictions.
*NOAA Nautical Chart. See NOAA.gov for disclaimer.
A video taken from Stellwagen Bank looking back West toward the city and watching a large vessel come back in through the shipping channel. One can see what a peaceful and desolate place this can be on a calm summer day: