Stellwagen bank

Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary
Humpback whale breaching off the Northwest Corner
Map of the Stellwagen Bank sanctuary
Location Massachusetts Bay, Massachusetts, United States

42°20′00″N 70°15′00″W / 42.3333°N 70.25°W / 42.3333; -70.25Coordinates: 42°20′00″N 70°15′00″W / 42.3333°N 70.25°W / 42.3333; -70.25

Area 638 sq nmi (2,190 km2)
Established 1992
Governing body NOAA National Ocean Service
Official website

Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary is an 842-square-mile (638-square-nautical-mile) federally protected marine sanctuary located at the mouth of Massachusetts Bay, between Cape Cod and Cape Ann. It is known as an excellent whale watching site, and is home to many other species of marine life.

Stellwagen Bank

The sanctuary lies within Massachusetts Bay, 25 miles (40 km) east of Boston, 5 miles (8.0 km) east of Gloucester, and 5 miles (8.0 km) north of Provincetown, Massachusetts.

The heart of the sanctuary is Stellwagen Bank, an underwater plateau stretching 19 miles (31 km) north to south, and six miles (10 km) across at its widest, near the southern end. The bank is, on average, 100 to 120 feet (30 to 40 meters) below the surface, while surrounding waters to the west are over 300 feet (91 m) deep and to the northeast as deep as 600 feet (200 m).

The steep sides of the plateau cause deep-water currents to rise up when they hit the bank; this upwelling brings with it nutrients and minerals from the bottom, feeding the local ecosystem. Over 130 species from numerous classes of the animal kingdom call the bank home at least temporarily. Some such fish are the Atlantic cod, silver hake, yellow-tail flounder, blue-fin and yellow-fin tuna, striped bass, blue fish and numerous species of shark including the great white shark.[1] Shellfish such as the American lobster, sea scallops, squid and ocean quahogs are also prevalent. Many marine birds call the bank home including gannets, shearwaters, storm petrels, fulmars, puffins and razorbills. Reptiles are even present, primarily being represented by the leatherback sea turtle. Possibly the most famous animals on Stellwagen Bank are the mammals. Five species of seals (harp, gray, harbor, hooded, and ringed), and numerous whale species swim in the waters of Stellwagen.[2] Whale watchers can frequently see humpback whales, Minke whales, fin whales and, one of the most critically endangered whale species, North Atlantic Right Whales. Several other whale species can also be seen here including the sperm whale, beluga, orca, pilot whale, White-beaked dolphin, Atlantic white-sided dolphin, common dolphin, bottlenose dolphin, Risso’s dolphin, harbor porpoise, blue whale, and sei whale.[2]


Stellwagen Bank owes much of its existence to the last major ice age. 25,000 years ago, the Laurentide ice sheet advanced over the eastern United States, pushing in front of it large amounts of earth and rocks. The southern margin of the glaciers formed local geographical features including Cape Cod and Stellwagen Bank. Originally, the bank was above water, but gradually subsided over time as the post-glacial rebound subsided.

In the 17th century it was observed that the area made for excellent fishing. Large cod and tuna were frequently caught in the area, and whaling ships caught many whales in the area.

In 1854, the US Navy sent Lieutenant Commander Henry Stellwagen to survey and map the area. It was known that there was a bank in the area, but its extent and shape were not known. Sounding could show ships how close they were to the dangerous waters of Boston Harbor, and so better maps were needed.

Prior to Stellwagen's survey, it was believed there were two small banks in the area: one just to the north of Cape Cod, and one in the middle of the entrance to Massachusetts Bay. Stellwagen showed that they were part of one large bank. As a result, the Navy named the bank after him in 1855.

On October 7, 1992, Congress designated the area a National Marine Sanctuary.[3]

In 1999, the DeepWorker 2000 submersible was used to quantify the species of fish as well as the space resources within the Sanctuary.[4] Remotely operated underwater vehicles were used from 1993 to 2003 to make additional observations of the fish within the Sanctuary and adjacent locations.[4]

The Sanctuary's headquarters is located in Scituate, Massachusetts.


External links

  • Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary homepage

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.