Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Whale of a Tale

Got a whale of a tale to tell ya, lads
A whale of a tale or two
'Bout the flappin' fish and the girl I love
On a night like this with the moon above
A whale of a tale and it's all true
I swear by my tattoo

Do you know that song? As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, when Mindy and I were in Boston, we went whale watching. I had been whale watching once before on a vacation with my kids in Alaska. So I had some idea what to expect and was prepared with my 200mm lens and my 2x teleconverter.

Coming out of the harbor, we saw this lighthouse. Kinda pretty, huh?

Thar she blows! Come on, I know you've always wanted to say that! Go ahead, I'll wait! THAR SHE BLOWS! Good job!

Here's a Humpback's humped back. All the whales we saw were Humpbacks. Bless their hearts.

I'm assuming this whale is from Texas. Cause she's so friendly. See, she's waving at you. Hi, y'all!

Humpback cows sometimes slap the surface of the water with their flippers to call their calves closer to them. At least that's the theory. But I still say they're just waving hello!

Now here's where our whale of a tale turns to a tail of a whale. I took the following picture of the bottom of the fluke of one of the whales. The captain of the boat was interested in the photo because they identify individual whales by the pattern on the bottom of the fluke. She was not able to identify the whale from the book of photographs she had. Of course, it was hard for her to see details in the pattern because she was viewing it on my camera’s LCD screen, not on a computer.

Fast forward to six days ago. Some of you know I use Flickr to share my photos. I received a comment on the above photo on my Flickr photostream from an administrator of a Flickr group called “Humpback Whale Flukes” inviting me to add my picture to the group and telling me that this particular whale is an eleven year old female named Etch-A-Sketch and she is HWC#8484 on the North Atlantic Humpback Whale Catalog.

It seems there are over 6,000 whales that have been cataloged by photos of their flukes. And because whale calves stay with their mother for a period of time, they actually have the maternal side of the family trees mapped out on many of the whales. It was interesting to me to find out that this whale, Etch-A-Sketch, is the daughter of Thalassa and the granddaughter of Salt. Salt is the most photographed and famous of humpback whales, having been seen each of the last 32 years in a row! She is even the star of a video called “Salt and Friends.”

Having had success at identifying Etch-a-Sketch, I then submitted the following photo to the same Flickr group.

A couple days later one of the members identified her as a twenty-one year old female named Tornado, HWC#0741. How cool is that? So I"m two for two on tails of a whale. And with that I end my whale of a tale.


common ground said...

Really great photos David. Amazing that they are cataloged by tail markings. I guess I learned something new today! We went once in San Diego and it was a great experience.

summersundays-jw said...

What an amazing story. These new fangled computers have really changed our lives. Jan

ALVN of WhisperWood Cottage and Junkologie said...

Love the tale...and tails! :) I can't believe they can identify them that way. Mystifying!!


Primitiques 'n Poetry said...

I love this post! Call me a sucker for word play and great photography. The whales were so fun to watch. I'm glad you were able to capture their fingerprints so we could learn some of their names. ~Mindy

thedomesticfringe said...

Those are some seriously AMAZING pictures! Really, they're great. Such a cool story too...I can't believe you know the whales names.