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Humpback Whale Migration Update: April 29, 1998
Today's Report Includes
To: Journey North
From: Anne Smrcina
Greetings from the Stellwagen Bank National
Humpbacks And Calves Arrive In The Gulf
We've gotten reports of perhaps 30 or more in the Sanctuary, at a point about 5 miles
north of Race Point, Provincetown (the northernmost part of Cape Cod).
Among these whales are several mothers. The first to be spotted --way back on April
8th-- was Salt. Salt has traditionally been an early returner, but this still seems
a bit early. Eleven days later, on April 19, "W" was spotted with her calf
("W" was so named because of a marking that looks just like the letter).
On April 25th, Owl and her calf, and another as yet unidentified mother and calf
Many of the whales seen to date are quite young, although
it seems that both sexes and a variety of ages are represented. The whales have been
seen open mouth feeding on large schools of sand lance.
Seeing Salt and her calf was a happy surprise for the naturalists. For those of you
who have read the book "Crystal: The Story of a Real Baby Whale" by Karen
Smyth (Down East Books, 1986), you may recognize Salt -- she was the mother whale
in the story.
Salt is a regular visitor to the Stellwagen Bank area most years. Over time, scientists
and naturalists have recorded the following appearances of Salt with her calves:
- Crystal (1980)
- Halos (1983)
- Thalassa (1985)
- Brine (1987)
- Bittern (1989)
- Salsa (1991)
- new calf (1998)
Challenge Question # 7:
"Look at the list of Salt's calves above. What can that tell you about humpback
whale reproduction? What might have been some of the concerns of the scientists studying
(To respond to this Challenge Question, please follow the instructions at the
end of this report)
The information about whale
sightings in the Gulf of Maine was relayed to me by Jooke Robbins of the Center for
Coastal Studies on Cape Cod. Researchers at the Center have been studying humpbacks
at Stellwagen Bank and elsewhere in the Gulf of Maine for many years. They can recognize
the whales by their distinctive markings.
Other whales spotted by the researchers so far this season include:
Sparta (born in '96)
Anvil (born in '96)
Trajectory (born in '95)
Firefly (born in '96)
Also seen were the following whales, which just got named a few weeks ago at the
naming party described below:
Hawaiian Humpbacks Say Aloha And Head North!
The whales from the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary are
on their way north now. I spoke with Christine Gabriele of the Glacier Bay National
Park who said that park rangers spotted what they believe is the first of the migrating
humpbacks on April 24th (an adult).
Whale Naming Party--Better Luck Next Year
Although there were some good names suggested by Journey North students in the whale
naming Challenge Question # 3, I'm sad to say that none of them made the final cut.
The researchers and naturalists were looking for very distinctive marks that could
not be confused from whale to whale -- very often a small but highly detailed marking
that would not fade over time. Some of the big patches of black on young whales change
markedly over time. I'll be going back to the naming party next year -- and now that
we better understand the naming procedure, we'll try it again.
For a look at all the newly named whales go to:
Discussion Of Challenge Question # 6
In one of my previous reports I asked about humpback whales elsewhere in the world.
How many of you knew that humpback whales occur in all oceans of the world? Students
from Iselin Middle School in New Jersey provided their response: "Humpback whales
can be found in coastal waters around the world. We found a web site for whale watching
in New Zealand". firstname.lastname@example.org
In fact, thirteen humpback whale stocks have been identified worldwide. Humpbacks
usually migrate from feeding grounds in temperate to polar latitudes to warmer tropical
to subtropical calving grounds. In the North Atlantic whales move between the Gulf
of Maine/Gulf of St. Lawrence and other points up north (including Greenland, Iceland
and Norway) down to the Caribbean.
In the southern hemisphere, whales calve in warm tropical waters including areas
near American Samoa (where Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary is located). They
move south to feed on massive swarms of krill in the productive waters of the Southern
Ocean near Antarctica. Can you find American Samoa and the Southern Ocean on a map?
That's all for this report. Here's hoping for fair weather and good sightings.
Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary
How to Respond to Journey North Challenge Question
1. Address an e-mail message to: email@example.com
2. In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question # 7
3. In the body of your message, answer the question above.
The Next Humpback Whale Migration Update will Be Posted on May 13, 1998.