2010 05 14- underwater footage of a calf, mother and a badly scarred male escort in 50 feet of water Print E-mail
Written by Andrew Stevenson   

Out on Dom Perignon at 9.30 from Ely's Harbour. On board were Bob Stienhoff, Ron Lucas, Russ Wheyman, Camilla and myself. Thanks to Adam from iStore and Barbara Fullerton, who directed us to three whales in shallow water. Although shy at first, the three whales came to the boat several times allowing me to film them underwater. Most interesting to me was the unusual belly pigmentation of the male with the white chevron marking. As I looked at the underwater video this evening it struck me that the white pigmentation wasn't genetic but rather the scarring from an entanglement. Looking closely through the video I could see white lines from both sides of its mouth to the underside of its pectoral fins and then across the bellly in a wide curvilear scar.


Above you can see the white scarring, probably from a line entanglement in its mouth to the underside of the pectoral (the whale is upside down) and across its belly.

Further analysis of the photos we had obtained and of the underwater high definition video showed scarring commensurate with an entanglement.


Above you can see the other corner of its mouth and the rather assymetrical scarring on the underbelly.


In the above photo, taken by Ron Lucas, you can see the white scarring at the corner of the whale's mouth just below its left eye with the white line descending down under the pectoral fin and the beginnings of the white chevron marking on the belly.


And another photo by Ron Lucas showing more clearly the scarring at the left corner of the whale's mouth just under the eye.

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The two fluke ids (taken by Camilla) on the left show rips in the trailing edge and black lines consistent with rope scars. The dorsal fin also has scars consistent with rope abrasions.


The above fluke id showing almost only the trailing edge clearly shows nothces that could have been caused by rope abrasions.


Above you can see the scarrings on the top of the peduncle just before the fluke. These scars are replicated on the underside of the peduncle in the underwater video.

This may be our final images from this season. If they are, they leave me with a sense of optimism. The first whale we saw this year was badly entangled with a rope through its mouth, pinning its flukes to its side and a bundle of rope swaying from one side of his back to  the other. The rope also trailed off its flukes. The male escort we fillmed today had scarring that must have been from an entanglement that was just as bad. Perhaps the first unfortunate whale we encountered early this season will be as lucky as this one. Was this whale released by human rescuers, or he is just one tough surviver? We'll try to find out.

When I returned home I sent the dorsal fin to Dr Jooke Robbins at the Center for Coastal Studies and she responded within minutes with the id.  This was confirmed by the fluke id I sent her. Pendiente, or NAHWC 0523 was first photographed in Maine in 1987. Dr Robbins will be looking into this case to see if there is an entanglement history that might have included a rope line through Pendiente's mouth and will report back to us.

The female only raised half a fluke once and Camilla managed to capture it below. 


The calf didn't raise its fluke once, but this underwater still image taken from the high definition video should be good enough for a future id.


On the way home we came across what must have been a manta ray. It appeared to be at least six to eight feet across. I tried to get into the water to film it but the ray disappeared.



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