Day 6: April 25, 2012
Sea Mammals Seen
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This is the breakfast spread at Aerie House: fresh fruit, quiche, banana bread, and much more. Everything was delicious. And, as promised, a peak at my room. Four of the seven rooms at Aerie House have their own baths while the other three share a pair of baths. It's sort of like a common three-bedroom two-bath house. The rates are lower for the rooms that share baths and, being a rate watcher, I selected one of those. So here is a view of the baths filled out with a photo taken from my window and a shot of the sink in my room.

I hadn't even thought about it so was surprised to learn that it is whale watching season in Provincetown. The whales are always here, I was told. It's the tourists and weather that are seasonal. At this time of year, Dolphin Fleet of Provincetown has two cruises scheduled each day. Cancelling yesterday's afternoon had been considered because of rough water but it sailed as planned. The morning cruise had briefly encountered two or three whales and the afternoon cruise saw four or five. I was hoping to do as well as we pulled away from Provincetown and passed some seals guarding the lighthouse.

Clusters of birds can sometimes indicate the presence of whales and there were certainly plenty of birds flying about. Below a group not terribly far ahead, our first whale was spotted. My goal for the day was to get at least one picture of a whale tail like those seen on commercials and travel shows. That was soon accomplished. It might not be commercial worthy but I got my picture and was a happy man.

But that tail and that picture were just the beginning. My bad timing for weather in Boston was more than offset by my good timing on my first whale watch. It was lunch time off the tip of Cape Cod and some sort of all you can eat special seemed to be really pulling 'em in. Mike, the fellow who did the commentary on the boat, pointed out whales as they were spotted. He once counted ten on the surface. At another point, after announcing three or four in quick succession, he said he just couldn't keep up with them.

And tails weren't the only whale parts visible.

In the third picture here, a finback whale breaks the surface while a buddy does a headstand just beyond. Mike's end of cruise summary included four finbacks, at least twenty-five humpbacks, and a couple hundred white-sided dolphins. Despite their numbers, I never did get a decent picture of a white-sided dolphin as they zipped along just below the surface or flashed by just above it. Mike and others stressed that this was not normal. When going on a whale watch your only expectations should be for a nice boat ride with merely hopes for spotting a whale or two. Today was extraordinary.

ADDENDUM: May 14, 2012 - The Dolphin Fleet of Provincetown keeps a tally of sightings and posts it on their website. The "official" score for our cruise (April 25, Dolphin VIII, 10:00) was: 4+ Finback whales, 150-300 Atlantic white-sided dolphins, and 25-30 Humpback whales. That matches Mike's real-time summary rather well. However, the "official" sightings for the previous day (April 24) are even worse than what I reported from my casual pre-departure chat. The afternoon cruise did indeed see a few whales (2-3 Finback, 1 Humpback) but the morning cruise had been completely whaleless. The 1:30 cruise on the 25th in general saw a few less than we had in the morning although they did spot 2-3 Minkes.

In traveling west to east, I naturally stopped first at Plymouth and then at Province. The Pilgrims, traveling east to west, did it the other way around. They actually spent several weeks here, life was slower then, and even signed the famous Mayflower Compact while here. But it is Plymouth and that numbered rock that gets most of the attention and the residents of Provinctown resent that just a little. Evidence of that resentment can be seen in the great granite challenge. Recall that the National Monument to the Forefathers in Plymouth which I stopped at on Tuesday is the largest granite sculpture in the United States. This is the Pilgrim Monument and it is the tallest granite structure in the United States. The sculpture was finished in 1889; The tower in 1910. Fundraising for the two probably overlapped. In my imagination, crowds once stood on opposite sides of the bay with one side shouting "weighs more" to the other's "it's taller".

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