2010 03 21- 15 hours on the water, 25 individual fluke ids, and two Bermuda to Bermuda matches! Print E-mail
Written by Andrew Stevenson   

 

A spectacular morning as we set out from Boss's Cove on Sea Slipper with Captain Michael Smith, Camilla Stringer, my sister Jackie and Heather at 8 am with an oil-slick calm sea. We picked up three humpbacks feeding on the edge north of Sally Tuckers and obtained two of their fluke ids. Congregating boats made us decide to head to Challenger before the Sunday crowd of boats arrived. We found what seemed to be a sick large green turtle until we circled back and approached it. It's right front leg was noticeable shorter, probably due to a shark bite sometime in the past.

 

The photo above left taken by Camilla Stringer on 2010 03 21 and immediately identified and matched to the photo on the right taken on 2008 03 27 two years earlier. The same whale was previously seen in Bermuda in 1986. If we can keep obtaining large numbers of fluke ids in Bermuda are we going to see the same whales coming by here year after year?

 

Above left is a photo taken on 2nd April 2009 and on the right is a photo taken by Camilla on 21st of March 2010 of the same whale also known as Glaze. The two Bermuda to Bermuda matches are both within two years and both effectively at the same time of the year. 

On Challenger Bank we saw whales in every direction.We found a chunk of whale blubber 8" by 5" by 2" with shark teeth serations on the edges. Where did this piece of whale come from? Surely a shark couldn't have taken this hunk out of a live whale? Was it the dead sperm whale that had been towed back out to sea? Or is it an indication that the entangled whale we saw last Thursday didn't survive? We have the skin and blubber and will attempt to have a DNA analysis of it made here in Bermuda.

Four to five juvenile whales circled the boat and we managed to obtain some underwater footage of them. Water was not clear due to the immense amount of plankton in the water, visible to the naked eye. The surface of the water was also streaked with plankton and what appeared to me to be whale defacation. The five whales then started following the same contour line on the western edge of Challenger but did not make deep dives, as if they were simply searching for food. Over the course of the day we made a conservative estimate of 30 individual whales on Challenger alone .

At 4.30 pm, right where we'd expect to find him, a single large male started circling our stationary boat. I got in the water with him and he was as gentle as can be and very curious. He approached very slowly multiple times, rolled onto his side and stayed within a fifty-foot radius, sometimes approaching within feet, head first. Then four juveniles approached and began interacting with us for about an hour, all whales approaching very close to me and to the boat. How did those juveniles know there was something going on? They were a fairly active group with head lunges and tail swipes visible both underwater and on the surface. At 5.30 pm one of the whales deep below blew a curtain of bubbles  between me and the other whales and then they all disappeared.

Camilla recognised the big whale when he fluked and pulled out our onboard laptop with all our Bermuda fluke ids and matched the fluke in a minute. This is his third time being photographed here in Bermuda. Camilla and I could clearly remember the previous time we'd seen him, on almost the same day (27th of March in 2008 ) and with four to five juveniles who displayed the same active behaviour. On that previous occasion I decided not to enter the water with them because they were too active. This time however I was already in the water with the large male when the juveniles arrived. The prevoius sighting in Bermuda was in 1986. Other sightings of this whale have all been in the Caribbean. Camilla's identification and matching of a whale's fluke real time on the boat while we still have the whale swimming around us is pretty amazing. The fact that not only is this whale already recorded twice in three years, but the same week of the year, and exhibiting the same behaviour with the same number of juvenile whales around him is very interesting.

On the way home we received a call from Bermuda Marine Radio to ask us to assist a disabled commercial fishing boat on the west southwestern edge of Challenger. We towed the boat to Somerset and arrived back at our dock on Boss's Cove at 11 pm, fifteen hours and 25 individual fluke ids later.

 
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