Another species that migrates past Virginia Beach, the fin whale, is second in size only to the blue whale, making it the second largest animal on earth. Long and streamlined, fin whales are known for their great speed capabilities and powerful, low-pitched sounds. Both the humpback whale and the fin whale are listed as endangered.
The number of annual migratory whales in the Atlantic waters near Virginia Beach is being studied through ongoing research, including periodic aerial surveys. Additional research is required before scientists will be able to provide an accurate estimate of the number of whales that migrate past Virginia Beach annually.
The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center, located in Virginia Beach, offers education-based Winter Wildlife Boat Trips, which explore an array of interesting winter wildlife visitors and residents in the Virginia Beach area. During these two-hour trips, knowledgeable Virginia Aquarium educators help spot harbor seals, harbor porpoises, and whales. In the sky, guests may see aerial shows of nature as brown pelicans, northern gannets, double-crested cormorants and other sea birds soar, dive into the water and feed on schooling fish.
On-board educators teach about the wildlife, including discussions about the whales, their annual migrations and current protection efforts for these wondrous and endangered creatures. Other discussions explore the differences between harbor porpoises and bottlenose dolphins. Artifacts and time for questions add to the experience.
The boat trips take place on a 65-foot catamaran, Rudee Whaler, which features a heated cabin and outdoor seating on upper and lower decks. Hot beverages may be enjoyed along the way. Boat trips leave from the Virginia Beach Fishing Center at Rudee Inlet, located at 200 Winston Salem Ave, Virginia Beach. Charter trips are available upon request. Also, note that wildlife sightings cannot be guaranteed.
Tips for Whale Watching
• Wear warm clothing, including water-proof jackets in case of rain, hats, gloves and scarves.
• Dress in layers so you can make adjustments as necessary for a variety of conditions.
• Wear non-skid shoes and warm socks.
• Remember to pack your camera and binoculars.
• Take a pair of sunglasses in case you have a bright, sunny winter day.
• Seek medical advice before planning your trip if you are prone to sea sickness.
Make the most out of this interesting adventure, even if you do not manage to see everything that you had hoped to see.
Visit the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center website at virginiaaquarium.com2.