By: Beth Anne Miller, originally published in The Gam, July 2022
On May 22nd at 9pm, after a spectacular sunset that painted the sky pink, lavender, orange, and periwinkle, the American Princess’s dock lines were cast off and she set out from Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, on the first overnight Pelagic Bird and Marine Wildlife cruise of 2022 to the Hudson Canyon, approximately 100 miles offshore.
Some passengers turned in early so they could be well-rested for the long day ahead, while others enjoyed the rare opportunity to be out on deck under the night sky. It was a beautiful evening, with the stars coming out overhead as lightning flickered in the clouds over the city behind us (or maybe it was dragons…).
The next morning, as everyone woke up (or gave up after a sleepless night), we watched the bright pink sun emerge from the eastern horizon. We were out on the canyon, and our adventure was about to begin.
It was a glorious day, with the morning’s choppy sea smoothing out by mid-afternoon. Those interested in pelagic birds were thrilled, as many different species were sighted near the boat, including various shearwaters, petrels, and phalaropes. Arguably the most exciting bird moment of the day was in the afternoon, when a shout came from the starboard side: “Atlantic Puffin at 4 o’clock!” (Even I, not a birder, jumped up and ran over, but alas I did not see it.)
Those interested in cetaceans had some terrific moments as well. As the morning sun sparkled on the sea, a pod of dolphins was spotted far behind us. They were moving so fast and sending up such a spray in their wake, that they might be compared to a herd of wild horses galloping across the plains, kicking up a dust cloud behind them. Experts on board confirmed that they were striped dolphins. It was such a cool moment, and a rare sighting of an offshore species. We only wished they’d come closer!
At high noon, we were treated to a small pod of Risso’s dolphins—including some calves—on our starboard side. A few hours later, as some folks were taking a brief siesta in the cabin, we had the cetacean highlight of the day: a pod of common dolphins. They appeared seemingly out of nowhere, zipping over from all directions to ride our bow waves and surf in our wake, leaping out of the water like acrobats, the yellow patches on their sides shining in the sun. Those out on the bow were even able to hear them echolocating and vocalizing as they crisscrossed under the pulpit (though that might just have been the shrieking of excited passengers…).
But as quickly as the common dolphins appeared, they disappeared, vanishing into the sea as though we'd imagined them. As the American Princess glided across a glasslike, silvery sea on her return journey, we had brief sightings of several humpback whales, a few minke whales, and a fin whale.
Any amount of time spent at sea is time well spent, but it really is wonderful to be out there for a full twenty-four hours, away from technology, as there's no signal once we get offshore. Cruising under the stars, breathing the sea air, watching the sun rise and set, seeing cetaceans and birds that are usually only found in deep offshore waters...there's nothing like it. Many thanks to Captain Frank and the crew, who worked very hard for long hours to make sure we had the best experience possible.
The next offshore trip, scheduled for August 14-15, booked up in just a few days, but keep checking the AP’s website for announcements of future trips; they always sell out fast!
Gotham Whale looks forward to bringing you additional marine mammal stories. If you enjoyed this whale tale, we hope you’ll consider donating to support our mission: