'Surreal' encounter with minke whale wows Cape Cod vacationers

·2 min read

"It was totally Zen," said Tom Zoller, about his lengthy encounter with a minke whale about 5 miles off Provincetown, Massachusetts, on Monday.

Zoller and his wife, Ann, had motored out of Pamet Harbor in Truro, Massachusetts, aboard their 23-foot boat on a leisurely fishing and bird-watching expedition.

"We like to turn the key off and float for hours and just observe," Zoller said.

They saw shearwaters, gannets and petrels and then an unexpected guest arrived at the party.

"We saw a splash and then a minke circled the boat about a dozen times," he said "He would circle and come up to the boat. It was seeking us out."

A minke whale surfaces near Tom and Ann Zoller's boat about 5 miles off Provincetown on July 19.
A minke whale surfaces near Tom and Ann Zoller's boat about 5 miles off Provincetown on July 19.

The approximately 20-foot-long whale swam within several feet of the boat and under the boat on numerous occasions, blowing bubbles and raising its head.

"He would put his little snout up and just stare at us," said Zoller, a long-time Cape Cod vacationer. "It was so weird."

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Both Zollers began talking to the whale. Ann asked the minke if it was the one that made headlines last month after swallowing lobster diver Michael Packard, even though a humpback whale is the prime suspect in that caper.

And then there was the matter of what Tom Zoller called "blowhole talk," where the minke made rumbly, bubbly sounds as it approached the boat.

A minke selfie? Tom Zoller took this merry self-portrait during an encounter with a a minke whale off Provincetown on July 19.
A minke selfie? Tom Zoller took this merry self-portrait during an encounter with a a minke whale off Provincetown on July 19.

Eventually, the minke seemed to have had enough Zoller time and swam away. Tom called the episode "spiritual."

"We've had some phenomenal experiences out there," said Tom Zoller. "This one was surreal."

In 2015, the Zollers made a media splash when they captured underwater GoPro video of a great white shark swimming near their boat.

Charles "Stormy" Mayo, a senior scientist and whale expert at the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, was able to identify the whale as a minke from a screenshot provided by the Zollers and provided some context for the Zoller's experience.

"It doesn't happen regularly, but it is not uncommon," Mayo said. Folks should be assured that there's never any danger from the whale, he added.

This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: Whale encounter: Minke whale wows Cape Cod boaters during vacation