Right Whale Sightings:

Interpreting Tables to Understand Data

The U.S. Navy is helping save the northern right whale. Coastal waters off Georgia and Florida have been designated as "critical habitat" for the Northern Right Whale by the US government since 1993. The US Navy helps coordinate the sightings of right whales in these protected breeding areas.

The calving season normally runs from 1 December through 31 March. The surveillance teams record the adult and calf sightings information including their map location, the depth of water where they are sighted, and how far they are from shore.

The information they have collected can be used to help us understand more about the right whales in their winter habitat. Air patrols monitor the critical habitat and communication directly with ships near the whale sightings. The information included in their tables is the latest Northern Right Whale sighting data of the NRW calving season.

Take a look at part of the chart to become familiar with the information that is offered:
 Habitat* Date Time Lat Long Source Adults Calves Off Shore Temp-C Depth-Ft Yes 14-Mar-01 9:55 3100 8059 777 1 1 22 20 48 No 14-Mar-01 10:40 3151 8054 999 1 1 6 20 36 No 14-Mar-01 14:30 3150 8054 999 2 0 3 19 36
*Habitat column shows whether the sighting was made within the Critical Habitat Area.

Now open the Navy Web page and look at the table of all the sightings reported.

These charts are complicated, so focus in to small parts at a time. Try these ideas:

1. What month shows the most calves sighted?
Look at the column, "Calves" and take a count for each of the months that there are calf sightings. The calving season normally runs from 1 December through 31 March. Use this information to make a graph.
2. What is the range of distances that right whales are sighted from the shore. The distances recorded in miles from shore. Can you answer this: What is the average distance that whales are sighted from shore?
3. How many right whale adults and calves were found inside the Critical Habitat Area this season? How does this number compare with the number of sightings from outside the area? What can you say about this phenomenon?