2009 04 5- 14 whales cruising across Challenger, 21 new fluke ids, one a match, plus 3 more matches! Print
Written by Andrew Stevenson   

A spectacular day on the water and some interesting matches at home. We left Somerset Bridge soon after 9 am on Dom Pérignon with Bob and Brian Steinhoff, Camilla, Margaret, Kelly Winfield and myself. Winds were 10-15 and picking up but the sea was even messier than expected with big swells and waves from the last two days of high winds. We picked out four or five single whales around the Sally Tuckers area but were unable to maintain contact with them. They seemed to be feeding and with the long intervals between blows and the troughs we gave up and headed out to Challenger where we picked out our first whales as soon as we approached the eastern edge of the platform. There were several blows and breaches in different directions. A quick radio call to me from a passing fishing boat indicated a group of whales on the south eastern edge. Minutes after receiving the call we spot a surface active group with other pairs some hundreds of yards away. Soon we are with a group of whales that appears to be at least a dozen animals. From past experience I know that what might appear to be 7 animals on the surface is revealed to be 10 whales on underwater video. I guess this loose-knit group is at least 12-14 whales with one or two juveniles following a short distance behind. We stick with this group as it meanders right across the Challenger seamount, from the south eastern edge to the north western edge. The animals slowly peel off but there is much activity with head breaches and head butts, S-turns and the kind of competitive group behaviour reminiscent of the bar/party scene down in the Caribbean.

  2 fluke ids for the price of one!


Eventually a mother and her yearling calf station themselves under our boat and the other whales dissapear into the blue ocean. We are able to get in the water with them at close quarters for a considerable period of time but because my video camera isn't working, I have no footage of this remarkable encounter. But we do manage to obtain 16 fluke ids from the day and another 3 new fluke ids are sent to us from Richard Lee, Ingela Persson, Simon Parkinson and  Trudie Ottolini on Michael Haywood's Explorer and another from John Wadson. One of these flukes proves to be a match to our #bd0047 taken last year on 20th April by Kelly Winfield in exactly the same location.


Kelly's pic on the left from 2008 and Richard Lee's photo on the right this year. Do the humpback maintain site fidelity to their aggregating sites on the mid-ocean seamounts? Watch this space!


#bd0047 also matches to Allied Whale's #HWC2943 which was seen previously in 1984 on Silver Bank, DR, West Indies and again in 2003 - Trinity, Newfoundland. Thanks to Camilla for handing out information pamphlets about how important fluke ids are and cards with our email address, and also to Judie Clee for following up and making sure whale watchers sent us their photos.


Meanwhile back at home, Nicole Reed from Bar Harbour, Maine has made two more matches from looking at our own two-year old catalogue and trying to match it with Allied Whale's archival 'Bermuda' category of whales from 1968.

#bd0006 on the left below taken by me on the 21st of April 2007 matches to the photo of #HWC6002 on the right below taken by Cohen/Conrad in 1977. This whale has a 30 year sightings history in Bermuda!!
April 24 1977 - Bermuda - Cohen/Conrad (COA)
Aug 18 1980 - Trinity Bay - M Moore
Aug 20 1980 - Trinty Bay - M Williamson
July 2001 - Witless Bay - D Snow (Wildland Tours)

21st of April 2007- Bermuda- Andrew Stevenson






Nicole's sharp eyes also matched #bd0052, the photo on the left taken  by me on 21st April 2008,  to #HWC0225 the photo on the right below, aka 'Navajo'. This is bd0052/HWC0225's sighting history:

May 17 1980 - Chatham Massachusetts - CETAP
September 4 1980 - Chatham Massachusetts - ORES
July 1981 - Stellwagen Bank - PCCS
August 1981 - Stellwagen Bank - WCNE
February 4 1982 - Puerto Rico - D Matilla
June 21 1987 - Great South Channel - PCCS
August 14 1990 - Great South Channel - ACRC
April 13 1995 - Bermuda - Stone/Stevick (COA)

April 21st 2008- Bermuda- Andrew Stevenson





and Judy Allen at Allied Whale made the match of our #bd0146 taken by Kelly Winfield above the water to our underwater one taken on the right on the same day to their #HWC8732. Kelly's image below is only half a fluke, but Judy had no problem making the match to this whale also known as 'Pogo'!



While there were whales dancing all around us, two crew members kept an eye out for whales under the boat while chumming them up and the implaccable Camilla took copious notes of the head butting, lunging, S-turns, side swipes and tail lashings going on all around us.


 A fantastic day and to quote Brian Steinhoff, "This has been the best thing I've ever done!"

Another convert.