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Whale Watching

A growing attraction off the coast of Virginia is whale watching, mostly done in January and February on comfortable headboats, which charge by the passenger, or head. The whales spotted are usually humpbacks (Megaptera novaeangliae), which migrate slowly north, feeding on schools of mackerel and herring as they go. Whales, though they resemble fish, are warm-blooded and need thick layers of fat, or blubber, to protect them from frigid waters. And although their flippers may look like the pectoral fins of fish, they have all the bones found in the forelimbs or arms of land mammals.

The humpback can grow as long as a tractor-trailer and can live 70 or 80 years. This is an energetic whale, known for its spectacular leaps, its loud tail slapping, and its curious approach to boats. Humpback males sing a complex song that intrigues scientists and novices alike.

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