Martha's Vineyard

Here's the story behind this whale dance off the coast of Mass.

The spiral pattern is a sign of a unique way that humpback whales hunt

Humpback whales creating spiral patterns with air bubbles in the ocean off Massachusetts' Martha's Vineyard on Monday, Aug. 14, 2023.
New England Aquarium

A team of New England Aquarium researchers caught a series of beautiful photos of whales swimming in sync off the coast of Massachusetts this week.

The humpback whales produced a beautiful spiral pattern in the water south of Martha's Vineyard, according to images shared by the aquarium Wednesday.



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So what got the whales to seemingly dance in the water this way? It's a unique way that humpback whales hunt called bubble feeding or bubble netting.

The animals coordinate to blow air bubbles that push their prey, krill and fish, together.

"Once the fish are corralled, they are pushed toward the surface and engulfed as the whales lunge upward through the circular bubble net. Different groups of humpback whales use other bubble structures in similar ways, though there appears to be some regional specialization in bubble-feeding behaviors among populations," according to a NOAA Fisheries page on humpbacks.

Not only did a man capture three whales breach at the same ti me off the Cape Cod coast, it was the first time he'd been able to celebrate his birthday with all of his adult daughters in years.

One of the 16 whales spotted bubble feeding this week is upwards of 50 years old, according to the New England Aquarium. Her name is Salt and she's known for her white-speckled dorsal fin.

"Salt, who was first seen in Massachusetts in the mid-1970s and has given birth to 16 calves, was seen bubble feeding with three other whales south of Martha’s Vineyard. It was a rare treat for our survey team to see this iconic female humpback!" the aquarium wrote in a Facebook post.

The aircraft caught the behavior while surveying part of the ocean where a wind farm is being built.

Humpback whales have been in the news lately for several amazing sights, including a synchronized triple breach off the coast of Cape Cod last month and swimming along a whale-watching boat off of California.

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