Friday, July 31, 2009

Fin Whale/Cruise Ship Follow-Up

After performing a necropsy on the 70 foot female fin whale hit by a Princess Lines cruise ship last week, it was discovered that the whale had a thin layer of blubber and no food in her stomach. While this could be due to the whale having offspring, and therefore a thinner layer of blubber, it was unlikely that the mature whale was reproducing at her age.

There is no word on whether or not the whale was dead when hit, but that information may come out after more tests are done in the next several weeks.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Bet You've Never Seen This on a Cruise

A Princess Lines Cruise Ship pulled into Canada Place in Vancouver, B.C. last week. Unbeknown to them, they had an additional passenger. Well, can you call a 70-foot long fin whale a passenger if it's not on board? Sometime during the night the ship struck the whale and took it all the way in to the Vancouver harbor.

Chances are, the fin whale was either dead already or killed on impact -- a strike like that would probably break it's back -- but the whale has been taken to Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Sidney for a necropsy. After the scientists determine whether the whale was dead or alive when hit, they will sink it off the west coast of Vancouver Island so that it can support a group of critters called a whale fall community.

Click here for a Vancouver Sun video at the scene.

Monday, July 13, 2009

"Have you read the NY Times article yet?"

The title of this post is the question I have gotten at least seven or eight times today. The article is Watching Whales Watching Us. The article begins...

"On the afternoon of Sept. 25, 2002, a group of marine biologists vacationing on Isla San José, in Baja California Sur, Mexico, came upon a couple of whales stranded along the beach."

It goes on to talk about the whales, beaked whales, that had stranded on Isla San José and how SONAR can have quite the impact on our marine mammal friends. Fascinating stuff that is also quite controversial.

Unfortunately, dear friends, the answer to the title question is, "No, I have not read the article yet." I have been working with a truly amazing and dedicated team of volunteers at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center. We have been working on putting together an online bone atlas for the skeleton of a transient orca that was filled with PCBs and DDTs. I think I only have room in my life for one stranded whale at a time! So, I do hope to get to the article soon, but for now, it will just have to remain bookmarked.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Migaloo the White Whale Returns

The name "Migaloo" is an Aboriginal name for "white fellah," which is absolutely fitting for this humpback whale.

Migaloo, the white humpback whale, has made his return to the waters off of Queensland in Australia. This time, for the first time it seems, he has a friend. Scientists are hoping that his friend is of the female variety, of course.

For more info and a short video, click here.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

American Cetacean Society Speaker Series

If you are in the Puget Sound region, I highly recommend going to one of the events put on by the Puget Sound Chapter of the American Cetacean Society. The next one is happening on Wednesday, May 20th in Seattle, Washington. This free event is held in Room 6 at the Phinney Neighborhood Center (6532 Phinney Ave. N., Seattle). Doors open at 7 and the program begins at 7:30. See below for program description -- and witty title!

Tales from the field: The lifestyle of a not so rich and famous marine mammal observer

Laura Morse, of NOAA Fisheries Service's National Marine Mammal Lab, will talk about what it's like to live in the field and her experiences on projects around the world. She will share photos, video and acoustic recordings of the rare and beautiful species studied and observed.

Laura Morse joined the Cetacean Assessment and Ecology Program at the National Marine Mammal in the spring of 2008. Laura is the field team leader for aerial surveys conducted in the Beaufort and Chukchi Sea and provides support for additional field research effort within CAEP. Laura has degrees in biology and anthropology from SUNY, Buffalo, NY and is currently working on a Masters in Coastal Zone Management through Nova Southeastern University, Florida. Prior to joining NMML, Laura spent the past 14 years working as a marine mammal field biologist worldwide on aerial, shipboard and land/ice based projects. She has participated in multiple large scale cetacean abundance surveys throughout US waters, the Norwegian Sea, Southern Ocean, Western Pacific, Indian Ocean and Asian waters and has specialized experience in field identification, photo-id and passive acoustics. Laura's favorite hobby in the field is photography of marine life , images from her collection will be presented here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What's the Story in Tobermory?*

The story is that the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (HWDT) on the Isle of Mull in Scotland is currently looking for volunteers to help with the preparation of a harbor porpoise skeleton to be used for school visits. If you have ever wanted to spend three weeks in Scotland and learn about cetacean anatomy, this is a great opportunity.

According to the HWDT site, this project would involve:
-Handling bones
-Removing dead tissue
-Soaking bones in liquid and household chemicals (such as laundry powder)
-Drying out the bones
-Numbering, cataloguing and assembling the skeleton

The Isle of Mull is one of the western islands of Scotland, and is the second largest in the Inner Hebrides. I spent a snowy two days on Mull two years ago while on an internship in Edinburgh. Tobermory, on the Isle of Mull, is home to about 700 people, a whisky distillery, and a very colorful waterfront (see above). Oh, and there's some great cheese coming out of Mull as well, which you may be able to find at your local supermarket. (For example, New Seasons on NE 33rd Street in Portland, Oregon carries it from time to time.)

If this sounds like your cup of tea -- and Scotland has some great tea -- you should think about applying. Actually, the more I think about it, the more I want to skip on over to Scotland for a bit. I'll bet they're looking for someone sooner than I could be available though, so I'm putting it out there for you. What are you waiting for?!

*The title of this post comes from a children's show called Balamory, in which children sing, "What's the story in Balamory? Wouldn't you like to know!" Balamory is based on the burgh of Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, which is apparent from the beginning of the show.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Whale Galaxy

As a self-proclaimed geek, I subscribe to a variety of blogs and websites. I'm not just into whales; I also geek out over knitting, psychology, webcomics, and NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD).

Today's featured picture is of the Whale Galaxy, also known as the Herring Galaxy or NGC 4631. (NGC stands for New General Catalogue, which is a catalogue of deep space objects.) The Whale Galaxy, which is a mere 25 million light-years from Earth, has been featured a couple of times on APOD, and each image is fascinatingly beautiful.

Most whales are quite large. This whale is as large as the Milky Way. Take that, Big Blue!