Humpback Whale in New York Harbor: Monday 11/21 Update

Gale-force winds gusting 40 knots stirred up the harbor, making it difficult to locate the whale's occasional spout among whitecaps everywhere. Despite recent reports "off the Statue," "at the 1 Bouy" and "north of Governors Island," it took us over an hour to find the mammal. We finally spotted it south of Governors Island right around slack tide.

The whale swam west, crossing the shipping lane, and began surface feeding just east of the Statue of Liberty. Due to the adverse weather conditions we didn't see the whale as much as on previous days, making its path much less predictable.

Marine Mammal Researcher Kristi Ashley Collum from the American Museum of Natural History, who also collaborates with Gotham Whale, joined us on the escort. Kristi deployed a hydrophone off the boat to record the whale's vocalizations. 

For about an hour the whale swam in a north-south pattern along a 0.3-nautical mile transect of a shoal, surfacing about once a minute.

At 3:30pm the whale headed south towards the Jersey Flats and we returned to port.

Humpback Whale in New York Harbor: Day 3

At noon we set out with hopes of locating the whale again. Early that morning, it was seen south of the Statue, a friend later reported it by North Cove Marina. With an incoming tide we reasoned that the flood would carry it upriver just like the previous day. At 1:20pm, Kristina spotted the whale just north of 79th Street Boat Basin on the Manhattan side of the Hudson River. The FDNY fireboat 'Bravest' was also in the area and the whale surfaced quite close to their vessel.

It was significantly less active than the previous day -- we timed 1 to 2 minute breathing intervals and the whale was was cruising slowly, only occasionally lifting its tail out of the water.

Earlier that morning we spoke with a researcher who has been documenting and cataloging whales in the New York Bight for years. He wants to identify this individual and said to pay special attention to the white pigmentation under the flukes. The color, pattern, ridges and scars act as unique identifiers. Photos will help determine if just one or multiple whales are being sighted in the Upper Bay. The first photo is the underside and the second photo the top side of the same tail.

Trying to estimate its size, we checked the Simrad structure-scan/sonar and were amazed by the image!

It seemed there was less fish in the area than yesterday. Only once did we observe surface feeding.


As flood changed to ebb, the current carried us and the whale south again. Floating with the engines in idle for hours, only occasionally making small course corrections to avoid anchored barges. The most incredible experience of the day was when the whale surfaced just next to the boat. It was a huge surprise, since we were careful to maintain at least a 100 yard distance at all times.

Today the whale hugged the Manhattan side as it travelled downriver at 3-4 knots.

It passed within feet of the cruise ship terminal.

Then it picked up speed, moving past Hudson Yards and Chelsea Piers at 7 knots.

At the Whitney Museum of American Art, it showed its tail again.

 Finally, as the sun set, the whale made its way south towards the Verrazano Bridge. We hope it will find its way back to the ocean soon.

Humpback Whale in New York Harbor

Passengers aboard our Adventure Sightseeing Tour got to see the newest attraction in New York Harbor! A whale made its way up the Hudson and was spotted off the Statue of Liberty.

We watched the whale for several hours, providing a safety zone and communicating with commercial vessels to avoid potential collision.

Encountering whales is not uncommon this time of year out in the Atlantic Ocean, but rarely does one swim into the harbor.

The whale surfaced within feet of the boat, allowing us to take truly unique photos.

It's a Humpback whale and we are searching the national database to learn more about this specific animal.



For more photos and videos check out the Day 2 and Day 3 blog posts.