2009 08 24 More matches! One to an Icelandic whale! Print
Written by Andrew Stevenson   

While at Allied Whale, College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, Maine at the end of July, I had productive meetings with Dr Peter Stevick, Judy Allen, Rosie Seton, Dr Steve Katona, Dr Sian Todd and also Toby Stephenson at the Bar Harbor whale museum. One morning while Peter gave me three old colour prints Dr Greg Stone had left at the Allied Whale office. It took minutes to identify one of the three prints, taken by a Mr Higgins in the 70s in Bermuda, matching it to another sighting in Bermuda in the eighties. I then started randomly looking through some of our own Bermuda flukes taken this spring using Dr Stevick's new subtype patterns added to the basic five types (all white, mostly white, half and half, mostly black, all black) and within a short time had identified the fluke below, #0254 with one in the Allied Whale catalogue- HWC8613, an Icelandic whale taken by YONAH in 1992!

This is only the second Bermuda-Iceland match.

Another photo taken that day, our 0267, we had already matched to Allied Whale's HWC#1037, a whale photographed twice on Baccalieu Tickle, on the eastern tip of Newfoundland in 1978 and 1979 and in Samana Bay, Dominican Republic in 1989. If you take a direct line from Dominican Republic past Bermuda, you hit the east coast of Newfoundland and then Iceland... Hmm, coincidence or were these two whales together- on their way to Newfoundland and then Iceland?

Both these photographs were taken on the 19th of April 2009, a memorable day because we followed one/two large groups of whales for some hours on Challenger Bank. This seemed to be at times one large group of 14 to 16 whales viewed from the surface, although experience has shown us that there can be as many as a third more whales when viewing them from underwater. At times this large group was one contiguous group, at times it broke into two. They were tightly packed, they were not fighting or displaying any agressive behaviour such as I have witnessed in the Caribbean and Hawaii during the winter months. At the same time there was loud singing on the crown of Challenger Bank (were there two singers that day?) while these whales careened over most of the 10-15 mile diameter Challenger seamount.

The third whale we've identified out of that harvest of 28 fluke ids obtained on the 19th April is our 0256 which is Allied Whale's HWC#6012. This is a Gulf of Maine whale. So, were there two 'groups' of whales milling around each other that day, one from way up north, the other from the Gulf of Maine? Many of these whales we resighted the next day.

Here is our fluke id of 0256/HWC6012:

If these are whales aggregating around a singer before moving off as a social unit to continue their migration up north, might we expect to see two groupings of whales from roughly the same feeding areas eg Gulf of Maine, and perhaps Newfoundland/Iceland from the fluke ids on the 19th of April? Watch this space as we eventually get the time to go through all the whale flukes and try to match them up with the ids in the Allied Whale catalogue.

Oh, and here is a map from Google Earth showing clearly how Bermuda is on a direct route to eastern Newfoundland and Iceland.