On a Cape Cod tour, you should look for whales between April and October, when the ocean’s water is at its warmest. What kinds of whales will you see? Humpbacks, finbacks, orcas, and even the extremely endangered North Atlantic right whales are known to make an appearance.
Today, the natural deep harbor at Cape Cod’s MacMillan Pier is used as a launch point for whale-watching excursions. But before that, it launched thousands and thousands of ships for whale HUNTING. I can’t overstate how huge the whaling industry was on Cape Cod. In the early 1800s, the New England whaling fleet numbered almost 200 ships, many of which launched from the ports of Cape Cod. The industry employed thousands of young men both at sea and on shore.
The sailors sold whale oil at a premium price… that is, until oil wells were discovered on land in Pennsylvania. The popularity of whaling dropped off quickly after petroleum oil could be found in the ground WITHOUT tapping a huge rotting carcass for it.
The last whaling expedition set out in 1927. Whaling has since been criminalized. Good thing too, because overhunting has left a few whale species on the endangered list even today. The North Atlantic Right Whale nearly went extinct in the 1800s, and the population hasn’t recovered much since then. Only 400 remain in the wild.
Today, the remaining whales are protected by law. Many whale-watching companies offer “whale-friendly” tours, which use boats that have low emission engines that are designed to operate more quietly. This way, the whales and other animals aren’t disturbed by loud noises and won’t be harmed by pollution.
Ready to meet the whales for yourself?
Hop in your vehicle and install the Cape Cod driving tour app. The audio narration will fill you in on everything you need to know about the history, culture, and science of whales before guiding you to MacMillan Pier.