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The Right Idea

The Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies

The hours pass, the sky slides from sunny to grey, and the boat rocks as southwest winds whip across Cape Cod Bay. It’s late February, and Dr. Charles “Stormy” Mayo and his six-person crew from the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies are on their fourth right whale research cruise of the season aboard a 42-foot Jarvis Newman lobster boat. It’s been hours since they’ve seen their last split-second glimpse of a whale—a massive Y-shaped tail curling as the behemoth dives beneath the surface.

Then an announcement comes through the cabin’s radio: Two crewmembers perched above have just eyed a breaching right whale. Everyone on board moves forward to get a glimpse as a submerged whale blows a surge of spray that looks like an exploding land mine, and a huge head breaks the surface. The right whale is a strange-looking creature, his eyes set back near his underside, his body all black except for the pattern of white calluses on his head. Just as quickly as he’s broken the surface, he’s sunk back beneath.

“People all over the world would give their eye to see what you saw,” Mayo says.

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Jeff is the Managing Editor for Cape Cod Life Publications.

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