Saturday, July 9, 2011

How Do Scientists Know Where Whales Travel?

Humans aren’t the only ones who enjoy traveling to Hawaii.  Researchers in the Aloha state recently spotted a humpback whale, one that is regularly seen in and near Glacier Bay National Park Alaska.  In fact, this particular whale has made the annual trek from Alaska to Hawaii (2700 miles !) for at least 21 years.
The whale, dubbed #875 by researchers, was spotted on March 15, 2011, by researchers from the Hawaii Marine Mammal Consortium, including Glacier Bay National Park's whale biologist Chris Gabriele. Gabriele recognized #875, a whale regularly seen each summer in Glacier Bay and the waters just south of the park known as Icy Strait.
Click this link to read some really cool facts about humpback whale #875 TRAVELS OF WHALE 875 - COOL STORY
Each whale can be identified by the unique black and white pattern on the underside of their tails, or more properly: flukes.  When a humpback whale dives, the tail rises into the air showing a distinct shape and coloration unique to each whale.  Checkout this website to learn more and to see a catalog of nearly 2000 flukes!  ALASKA HUMPBACKS CATALOG
Researchers use photographs to tell a story about each whale.  This story, or sighting history, documents when and where each whale has traveled.  These findings are used to determine movements of individual whales, who they are traveling and feeding with, when a female has a calf and how many whales use these waters to feed. By compiling thousands of these sightings, we have improved our understanding of the natural history and biology of humpback whales. 
Credit and thanks to and to