TWELVE MILES OFF PROVINCETOWN — The dark waters began to roil. Silently, two black, 70-ton leviathans emerged from the depths of Cape Cod Bay, skimmed the surface, then quickly slipped back into the sea. Scientists in a nearby boat tracked their “fluke prints” — the large surface swirls created from their underwater tail sweeps — but soon lost the watery trail of two of the world’s rarest whales.
For years, scientists have sounded a dirge for the North Atlantic right whale. Its population stalled around 300 in the 1990s, pushing some researchers to make mournful extinction predictions for the mysterious, 45-foot-long creatures that come to feed and frolic every spring off Cape Cod.