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.
This is KP1112 who was last seen in 2012 during July and August of 2012 around Trinity Bight.
This is KP5311. Last seen in July of 2011 off of Bonaventure Head.
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.