Captain Eric and I set out around 10am to see if the whale was still in New York Harbor. There were no recent confirmed reports. Someone said they may have seen something off Chelsea Piers, another unconfirmed report came from Hoboken and 34th Street. We started our search in the Deepwater Range, where we saw it last the previous night and cruised up the North River at 4 knots. Around 1pm a workboat in the vicinity of the George Washington Bridge reported the whale surfacing. We got there quickly and started tracking the whale again, keeping a safe distance to the mammal.
The whale had swum north with the flood, and as the tide switched to ebb it changed direction and headed back towards downtown.
NOAA's Humpback whale approach regulations call for a distance of 100 yards, slow speed, and to not place a vessel into the path of the whale. New York Harbor is teeming with tugs, barges, ferries and other commercial traffic so once again we decided to just stay with it, and coordinate with oncoming traffic in hopes of providing safe passage for the whale.
Most professional captains appreciated our guidance and steered clear of the whale. Around 3pm the whale started moving in an east-west pattern and began breaching. Fish jumped out of the water in a last attempt to get away.
Note the distinctive bumps on the whales head. Each bump is a hair follicle and researchers suspect they help the whale detect density of fish while feeding.
At dawn the whale was lobtailing -- slapping the water repeatedly with the tail, some scientists believe it to be a non-verbal form of communication, or part of the feeding ritual, stunning fish or driving them closer together.
As the sun set, we lost visual contact to the whale and updated the US Coast Guard to its last location so ships can be advised to be extra vigilant and operate at a safe speed in the area.
Check back later for video of the whale feeding.