Sunday, May 1, 2011

Right Whales off of Provincetown

On Saturday, my dad and I chartered a plane to see the right whales that have been hanging around Cape Cod. We flew with Jeff Campbell from Plymouth Airport.

I had never flown in a small plane before. It was a very enjoyable flight. I liked the Small plane better than the big commercial jets that I have flown on before.

Once we reached Cape Cod, we spotted the whales immediately. Most of them were within a mile of the shore near the mouth of Provincetown Harbor. My dad counted 17 of them at this location. We circled more than 1500 feet above them for six or seven passes.

I used my Tamron 200-500mm telephoto lens on my Nikon D7000. With the crop factor of the D7000's small sensor, my lens was effectively functioning as a 750mm lens. Even though I was photographing an animal that is larger than a tractor trailer truck, I still had to crop my images to approximately 50%.

My dad was absolutely thrilled. He had wanted to see the right whales for years now. We have made numerous attempts from land and sea, with no luck. This time, we could easily see many whales. Jeff and I were treated to my dad exclaiming "Wow!! Did you see that?!!", approximately every thirty seconds, for at least half an hour. He was like a little kid watching his first firework show. I have never seen him that excited before!

The right whale is an endangered species. There are only 400 or so in the entire world. The name "right" whale was given to them by whalers, because they are very large and spend most of their time near the surface, making them the right whale to kill. It is said that when the pilgrims arrived in 1620, that you could walk across Cape Cod Bay on the backs of the right and humpback whales that lived there. It is sad to see how much we have lost in such a relatively short time. Today, we are excited to spot approximately 20 of these magnificent creatures.

Fortunately, we also saw a mama whale with her calf. Hopefully, over time, these whales will be able to re-establish their population.

A couple of years ago, I interviewed Dr. Carol Carlson, a biologist who has spent her life studying whales, for one of my first Adventures in Photography Articles. During the interview, she expressed how concerned she was for sea life in general and especially whales. She said that her biggest worry wasn't hunting, but pollution. So get out there, clean up those beaches and don't throw any trash over the side of your boat! You can read that article here:

After making numerous images of the whales and Cape Cod, we headed for home. On the way, we flew over downtown Plymouth and the Mayflower. I will be posting some of those images soon.


  1. Those are some very cool pictures! I always make it a plan to go whale watching whenever I get down to Cape Cod every summer. We usually get one of the Cape Cod rentals on the beach because we like the close proximity to the beach and some of the other popular spots in and around the area as well. I went whale watching last year and I think the experience gets better every year. It's a shame that there are some whales that could become extinct because whale watching has always been one of my favorite things to do in Cape Cod.

  2. Hi Chase,
    Whale watching is also one of my favorite activities. Most trips are great, some are absolutely amazing! Here is a link to another trip that I went on. The highlight was a humpback mother and calf swimming right up to the boat. Hard to beat that!

    Protecting whales is very important and we can all do something to help. Pollution is a major problem. One time use plastic containers and bags are causing a lot of problems. Not using them at all or at the very least, recycling them, will make a difference. Commercial fishing has had a major impact on whales that get caught in nets. Sometimes, we compete with whales for their food. Reducing the amount of seafood we consume can help. Personally, I have limited myself to clams and lobsters. Both of which are highly renewable resources and most whales are able to avoid lobster trap lines. Getting the word out can also help! Thanks for the comments. I hope you enjoy the Cape and the whales! Greg


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