söndag 18 december 2011

Humpback Whales

Right now, the traditional and important fishing for herring is in full swing along the coast of Northern Norway and it is a very special sight to see the returning fishing-boats in the fjords during the blue light of the polar darkness.The herring does not only attract the fishermen, but also killer whales and humpback whales that feast on the fish along the coasts and fjords.

Returning with a catch of herring

As a marine biologist, I started (in a very small scale) to collect pictures for photo-identification of humpback whales in Norway in 2008 - a project that will hopefully one day result in new knowledge on the ecology of humpbacks and give insight into migration patterns between e.g. different feeding grounds. In co-operation with other biologists such data may also reveal migration routes between the feeding grounds in the north and the overwintering grounds in the southern hemisphere.

The most widely used tool for studying humpbacks is very simple and straight-forward. The technique basically involves getting good enough pictures of the flukes of the whales that can be stored in a database. Because no two humpbacks look exactly the same (the flukes have various patterns and markings/scars) the pictures can be used as human fingerprints to identify individual whales. If enough pictures from various places are collected over long time, the same individuals may be seen several times and one can start to get an idea of e.g. migration patterns and the population size.

The fluke of a humpback whale is like a human fingerprint and not two flukes look the same 

All projects that aim to understand more about cetaceans through photo-identification are long-term projects and a lot of time and patience is needed before any useful body of data is collected, but one has to start somewhere.

Yesterday, me and a couple of good friends went out with a local fisherman (thank you so much for all your help O-G, you were amazing and did not disturb the whales once!), and managed to locate five different humpbacks on the outside of Kvaløya, and although the whales were clearly resting at the surface for most of the time, I could add at least four "new" individuals to the database. Not only the fluke, but also the dorsal fin is highly characteristic and will be included in the database.

The dorsal fins of two different humpback whales (collected in 2008) outside the coast of Senja

Humpback Whale outside Kvaløya, 17 December 2011


Humpback Whale film from outside Kvaløya, Troms

If anyone observes humpbacks along the Norwegian coast and/or have pictures that may be useful for photo-identification, I would be very happy to get in contact with you and you can always reach me on: info@northernlightsphotography.no

Read more about the humpbacks in the Norwegian News NRK Troms og Finnmark

5 kommentarer:

  1. Vi har også knøllhvaler. Så totalt 20 stykker i går i Gavlfjorden. De kom for to dager siden.

  2. Så fantastisk å få komme på så nært hold! Litt av en opplevelse kan jeg tenke meg :) Herlig film og flotte bilder.

  3. Takk Torunn! Ja, det var absolutt en av de flotteste naturopplevelsene jeg noensinne har hatt, meste tiden låg knølhvalene og sov i overflaten og såg ut til å ha det veldigt bra.

    Beste hilsen, Fredrik

  4. flotte bilder av hvalen, forstår det må ha vært samme tur som Espen Bergersen viste bilder fra, helt utrolig flott, for en opplevelse, god jul og godt nyttår

  5. Ja, dette må ha vært en fin opplevelse!!
    Og tøffe bilder ble det og. Artig med litt levende bilder også.
    God Jul

    Tommy S