I love whale-watching. There’s the boat, the gentle rocking of the waves, the sea breeze, and, of course, the whales! If you go whale-watching while you’re in Provincetown or Boston, you’ll likely see a humpback whale or a finback whale, but if you’re lucky and have a quick eye, you may get a chance to spot the elusive, “stinky” minke whale. These little whales are small (less than half the size of a humpback) and they swim quickly. Most importantly, though, they’re shy. That’s why they’re called stinky, because when it comes to whale-watching they stink.
Unlike humpbacks, who love to show off and play at the surface, minkes don’t want to be seen. They’ll come up for air a few times and then dive down deep and swim for up to twenty minutes. Since they’re so small, their bodies are only visible for a short amount of time. If you’re watching a finback whale, it takes a while for their long bodies to pass through the water and you get a really nice look. With minkes, if you’re looking in just the right spot at just the right time, you may be treated to their small dorsal fins and a quick look at their backs.
If the water is very clear, you may get to see the minke’s “mittens.” The mittens are white bands that wrap around the flippers and are used to draw in their prey. Like other baleen whales, minkes eat plankton and small fish and use the thick hairs in their mouths (the baleen) to filter food from the water.
If you’re lucky enough to see a minke’s mittens, you might want to go out and buy a lottery ticket!