Some Old Friends

I have just finished downloading the humpback whales from yesterday and running through the catalogue with them to see if we know them.  We photographed individuals yesterday and there were more whales in the distance moving into Trinity Bight.  Identifying humpbacks is more tricky than sperm whales because there are way more animals to go through (340 in our catalogue alone) and the markings on the tail are much more complex.  It strains the eyes and takes a lot of time to scan through the catalogue with a photo trying to determine if we have seen a particular individual before or not.  Changes in scars between years also make it more difficult.

Whales in our catalogue are largely named by the photographer or organization who took them and then numbered by the number of different whale fluke photos that person has taken and the last two numbers of the year the photograph was taken in.  Occasionally, we will name a whale based on distinct markings but these are unofficial names.  We have one named Kiss that has an x on his tail, and one named butterfly whose tail looks like the markings on a butterfly  There is even a humpback in the North Atlantic named Harry Potter who has a zig zag mark on his tail.  There is another named Bingo who has markings that look just like numbers written on this tail.  These names stay unless we are given HWC (humpback whale catalogue numbers) or a Y number which represent whales who were photographed during the year of the humpback whale.  Some of these whales have a very long sighting history and others have never been photographed before.  Any animal on our site with an HWC number greater than 7394 is a newly catalogued whale since 2010.

In looking at our catalogue you will notice that there are many whales that do not have HWC numbers.  Allied Whale, the organization that takes care of this catalogue is an organization with restricted resources and a wide range of responsibilities that receives photographs from all over the North Atlantic.  It is a time consuming and difficult job  and with few people to work on getting through these pictures, it sometimes takes a very long time to hear back from them.   There are organizations all over the North Atlantic who photograph humpbacks and it takes a coordinated effort between all of the different groups to identify matches between areas.  We also work with committed individuals in The Dominican Republic, Bermuda, New England, St. Pierre, and Newfoundland.  There are approximately 11 000 humpback whales in North Atlantic who travel far and wide it will take many people to keep tabs on all of these whales.  If you have any photos of whales around the Bonavista Peninsula, please  let us know.

Of the eight humpbacks photographed yesterday, five are new and three are ones that we have seen before.

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KP1112

This is KP1112 who was last seen in 2012 during July and August of 2012 around Trinity Bight.

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KP5311

This is KP5311.  Last seen in July of 2011 off of Bonaventure Head.

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HWC3121

This is HWC3121 who we last saw in 2005 off of Elliston.  Because this whale is in the North Atlantic Humpback whale catalogue, we know much more about it.  For example, when this photo was submitted in 2005, the whale was last seen in 1984 on The Silver Banks, Dominican Republic on the breeding and calving grounds.  A 21 year gap in the sighting record for this animal.. if only it could tell us what it had seen and where it had been for all of those years!  This whale was also photographed in 1982 on the Grand Banks off of Newfoundland and in 1980 in Trinity Bay again.

Our catalogue which can be viewed at www.whalenfld.org has photo id records for humpback whales, sperm whales, fin whales and orcas.  The catalogue was created and is maintained by our friend Reg Kempen.  It is a massive undertaking and we are so thankful to have him dedicating so much of his time to keeping it current.

 

…and then there were FIVE….make that SIX!!!

So this morning when we got out to the area where the sperm whales have been, there was a group of them all together!  Some of them lying horizontal and some of them hanging vertically in the water resting.  We have never seen them all together like this before or this many together before.  Then when we did the count, we noticed there were not four but FIVE!  Not sure if whale five is a new one or one that we have seen before.  Stay tuned!  Also saw 20 harp seals, bald eagles, murres, puffins, gannets, and guillemonts.  The group looks so impressive all together.

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After arriving home, we looked at the photographs on the camera and there are not five whales but six!   The two new whales that were photographed today are both whales that we have seen before.  Cook was last seen in September of 2011 in Bonavista Bay.

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The second whale is Polo who was last seen in 2009 off of The Bonaventures.

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Polo has something strange looking on his back, not sure if it is scar tissue or what.  We will keep an eye on it and see how it changes over the summer.

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It is so great to have this large group of sperm whales here in our study area.  We are really looking forward to watching them throughout this season!

Meet Johnson, Piccard and Walsh!

If you have a look at the sperm whales in our catalog at www.whalenfld.org, you will notice that all of the whales are named after explorers.  Our friend Reg Kempen created  and maintains this site and he decided that because these whales are such world travelers, they should be named after explorers.  When we photographed the three new sperm whales this year, he asked us to find names of explorers that were important in Canada.  We decided that people who have explored space and the deep ocean would also be included in our search.  Our three new sperm whales now have names that we are pleased with.

Shawna Prince’s maiden name was Johnson and Reg thought it would great to name one after her as well as the Canadian Explorer John Johnson who was an Arctic explorer acting as a mechanic and cook for the MacGregor Arctic Expedition in 1937-1938.  This is Johnson.

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Because sperm whales are such deep divers, we thought it might be fitting to name some after deep sea explorers.  Interestingly, there have been more people explore space than the deep ocean.  We came across Jacques Piccard and Donald Walsh who dove to the deepest part of the Marianas Trench, The Challenger Deep near Guam on January 23, 1960.  They still hold the record for the deepest dive at 10,911 metres (35,797 ft).

Here is a photo of Piccard and Walsh after that dive in 1960.

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This whale is now known as Piccard

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And this whale will now be called Walsh.

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It’s fun naming whales!  Hopefully there will be lots more new whales to name this season!

Summer Solstice

They say that whatever the weather is on the summer solstice that is what the prevailing wind and weather will be for the rest of the summer.  If that is the case we’ll take it!  It is a beautiful day here on the Bonavista peninsula, sunny, 21 degrees and enough wind that it keeps the flies away.  Had a great day out there today with 2 sperm whales, 2 harp seals, puffins, gannets and bald eagles.

Live Puffin Cam

This is so cool.  A camera in a puffin burrow!  The egg has been laid and they expect it to hatch within the next week.  This camera is on Seal Island in Maine, I believe this is where they have been building artificial burrows and placing eggs from Newfoundland to help increase the population in Maine.  Apparently, puffins return to the same place they hatched from to nest when they become sexually mature.  Therefore, it was necessary to take eggs from nests here in Newfoundland and place them in these artificial burrows to hatch ensuring that those chicks would return  to seal island to nest.  Things should get really interesting once the chick hatches and the parents are feeding it!  Keep checking in!

http://www.learner.org/jnorth/livecam/puffin.html

 

Sperm Whale Breach!!!!

A wet but wonderful trip today with three sperm whales, puffins, murres and bald eagles.  And oh yeah…one of the sperm whales breached!! This is the first time that we have ever seen this behaviour here.  They are know to breach as often as humpbacks and right whales but it seems more likely with juveniles and on the breeding grounds.  Very cool!