Whales Make a Splash Off the Coast of Queens


This past Saturday, the Outdoors Club traveled to Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn to go whale watching. (Courtesy of Claire Krieger for The Fordham Ram)

On Oct. 8, the Outdoors Club sponsored the first ever trip down to Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn for a chance to go whale watching. So at 10 a.m., 13 other students and I boarded the Ram Van and commuted down to Pier 3 to board an American Princess Cruises ferry and embark on a boat ride with the hopes of catching a glimpse of a whale. 

The guide of the expedition explained that the waters of the North Atlantic Ocean near New York have been becoming increasingly cleaner in the past few years, leading to an increase in the amount of whales residing in the Brooklyn harbor. They reside in this area of the ocean while making their gradual trip to their wintering grounds further South. The usual whale watching season spans from April to November, but some tours run as late as December. 

The group of students truly lucked out for the day chosen to go whale watching. Bright and sunny with minimal clouds, it was the perfect day to spend, although bundled up, out on the waters of Jamaica Bay. After departing from the pier around noon, the boat began traveling out onto the open waters. Not even in an hour into the trip, the first two whales were spotted traveling together parallel to the boat. Everyone onboard rushed to the back left side of the boat, cameras and phones ready to capture any image of the Humpback whales that they could get. 

After the first glimpse of them, the guide explained that it could be anywhere from three to thirty minutes before the whales decided to come back up for air. Luckily, we did not have to wait long. After a few minutes the whales reappeared and we were able to watch and they puffed sprays of water from their blowholes and disappeared back into the depths. The boat followed the two whales for around 30 minutes before they decided to leave the pair  and try to spot another whale further out. 

After around an hour passed, a third whale was spotted on the right side of the boat. We all watched enraptured as the whale sporadically appeared out of the water. And when the whale’s tail breached and we caught a glimpse of the fluke (the black and white pattern on its stomach) we all collectively cheered in delight at being able to witness it. I approached the trip apprehensive about seeing any whales and not quite sure if I wanted to commit to a whole day to the Outdoors Club activity. I had never been whale watching and did not know if you ever actually spotted any whales when embarking out onto the water. But I was delighted to leave the trip having seen three whales- the first three I have ever seen. 

When I spoke to Kate Laboda, FCRH ‘24, the Logistics Coordinator of the Outdoors Club, she explained that this trip was planned to happen last year. However, unlike the perfect weather conditions that we had on Saturday, they had to cancel due to bad weather. Laboda said, “We decided to do this trip because we want a variety of outdoor activities and experiences for the club.” She also is a personal avid fan of whales and advocated for this trip and was just as excited as the rest of us to be able to see whales so close.

This is not the only fun excursion the Outdoors Club is doing – they have a plethora of activities coming up this year. For the fall season, there will be hikes, a catacombs trip, a walk on the highline and even apple picking coming up soon. The club tries to both embrace the nature in the city but also travel outside of New York City to get a wide variety of different outdoor experiences. 

The Outdoors Club will also have weekly rock climbing that anyone can join even if you have never rock climbed before. Once it snows, they plan on having ski and snowboard trips, along with some ice skating adventures. 

Be sure to get out of your comfort zone this year and try one of the club’s many activities. You can find them on Instagram or email to be on their mailing list at [email protected] so you don’t miss out on any of the exciting opportunities in store.