Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, received a surprise visit. A 50-foot humpback whale made an unusual trip there on Monday. It was spotted breaching and playing deep inside the bay for about 45 minutes.
The Boston Globe reported that Ed Hughes, a North Kingstown Harbormaster, spotted what he thought was a boat out on the water. He was making the rounds at a marina at Allen Harbor north of Quonset Point on Monday morning. The weather was windy. He said the following.
“I thought it was a quahogger at first. Then I saw it breach and I said, ‘that’s a whale!’ This is not a place where you normally see a 50-foot whale. Not here.”
Humpbacks are very acrobatic, often breaching high out of the water and then slapping the water as they come back down. Sometimes they twirl around while breaching. Breaching may be purely for play, or may be used to loosen skin parasites or have some social meaning.
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At first, he thought the animal was caught in netting, but as he watched it splash its tail and fins into the water, he realized it was playing. He watched it for about 45 minutes before he lost sight of it. Hughes said the following.
“It was breaching every 10 or 15 seconds. It was tail slapping like crazy. This was special. It was just having a great time. It was an amazing thing.”
Hughes grabbed his camera and snapped a few photos of the whale breaching out of the water. The Mount Hope Bridge and sparsely inhabited Prudence Island can be seen behind it. Without the photos, he said, no one would believe he saw what he did.
Humpback whales are an endangered species. It is estimated that there are over 10,000-15,000 humpback whales worldwide. Humpbacks also stick their tail out of the water into the air, swing it around, and then slap it on the water’s surface — this is called lobtailing. It makes a very loud sound. They breach and lobtail more frequently when the seas are rough.
The whales are the noisiest and most imaginative when it comes to songs. Their normal vocalizations are less likely to be heard over the roar of the seas. This suggests that the noise of breaching may be used as a signal.
ABC News reported that, Hughes, 64, has led a good amount of his life on the water. He was a charter boat captain who traveled all over the world. He has seen humpback whales in the ocean before becoming a harbormaster. He has had his share of views of interesting animals in the bay. He said the following.
“We’ve seen dolphin. Last year we saw a beluga whale, which was unique. But a 50-foot whale?”
Humpback whales live at the surface of the ocean, both in the open ocean and shallow coastline waters. When not migrating, they prefer shallow waters. They migrate from warm tropical waters where they breed and calve to arctic waters where they eat. There are three separate populations of humpbacks, those living in the North Pacific Ocean, those in the North Atlantic Ocean, and those roving the oceans of the Southern Hemisphere. Department of Environmental Management spokeswoman Rose Jones said.
“Humpback whales are not common inside the bay, although they are not unheard of.”
Hughes called the department, which sent officers to check on the whale. The officers checked on the whale. It was in good condition and last seen headed south.
Humpback whales can grow up to 52 feet and weigh about 50 tons. Females are a bit larger than male whales. Humpback whales are often seen in large groups, but the gatherings last only a few days.
[Image via Shutterstock]