Rare Right Whales Flock to Cape Cod

Plankton is especially plentiful this year

By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 24, 2011 2:21 PM CDT

(Newser) – There are only 473 North Atlantic right whales on the planet, but almost half of them have been spotted gorging themselves on an unusual feast off the coast of Cape Cod this year. "The current must be piling the plankton up," a scientist with the Center for Coastal Studies tells ABC News. "[There's] a patch of food, of unbelievable richness that's just stretching right along this edge. All these whales have their mouths open."

The right whale was hunted so mercilessly that only 100 remained when their slaughter was outlawed in 1935; the creatures, known as slow moving and gentle, have made a slow rebound since then. Scientists and whale watchers alike are thrilled; the whales are coming in close enough that observers can spot their distinctive bumpy heads from shore. "They're so big and magnificent, you just see them and ... it gives you chills," says a whale enthusiast. "They're amazing." (Click to read about another unusual East Coast whale sighting.)

A lone North Atlantic right whale swims off Race Point at the northern tip of Cape Cod in Cape Cod Bay near Provincetown, Mass., Thursday, April 10, 2008.
A lone North Atlantic right whale swims off Race Point at the northern tip of Cape Cod in Cape Cod Bay near Provincetown, Mass., Thursday, April 10, 2008.   (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
The Northern Right Whale was once hunted so heavily that its population dwindled to 100. It has since been making a comeback.
The Northern Right Whale was once hunted so heavily that its population dwindled to 100. It has since been making a comeback.   (NOAA)
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