Humpback Whale
Center for Coastal Studies

Humpback Whale
Home Page
Challenge Questions

Today's News
Today's News

Spring's Journey North
Spring's Journey North

Report Your Sightings
Report Your Sightings

Teacher's Manual
Teacher's Manual

Search Journey North
Search Journey North
return to:
JNorth Home Page


Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale Migration Update: April 29, 1998

Today's Report Includes

To: Journey North
From: Anne Smrcina

Greetings from the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.

Humpbacks And Calves Arrive In The Gulf of Maine!
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 were seen.

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 Salt?"

(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".

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.

Anne Smrcina
Education Coordinator
Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary

How to Respond to Journey North Challenge Question # 7

1. Address an e-mail message to:
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.