Humpback Humpback
Today's News Report Your Sightings How to Use Journey North Search Journey North

Humpback Whale Migration Update: February 17, 1999

Today's Report Includes:

Ahoy from Stellwagen Bank
This is Anne Smrcina reporting from the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.

Sighting data have been pretty meager for humpback whales lately. None spotted up north, and bad weather down south. I have made arrangements with two Massachusetts teachers who will be taking a cruise to Silver Bank during school vacation week and who will be e-mailing me information about the whales they see.

Feeding, Breeding and Challenge Question #3
Silver Bank is an area off the Dominican Republic that was designated as a humpback whale sanctuary by that nation. The Silver Bank and Stellwagen Bank sanctuaries are linked by our whales. It is quite probable that many of the whales that visit Stellwagen Bank spend their winters at Silver Bank. However, the Caribbean calving and breeding grounds attract more than just the Gulf of Maine humpbacks. Whales from all over the North Atlantic head there -- whales from the Gulf of St. Lawrence, from Greenland, from Iceland, from Norway.

Challenge Question #3
"Why would all of the whales go to one large breeding ground but separate out for feeding during the summer?"

(To respond to this Challenge Question, please follow the instructions at the end of this report.)

Discussion of Challenge Question # 1
In answer to Challenge Question #1 about the location of whales: It seems that most of the whales do head down to the Caribbean, but in past years not all of the whales made the trip. It is believed that some of the juvenile whales, that may not yet be interested or capable of breeding, may stay to feed in areas where prey is still plentiful. Over the past few years, young humpbacks were seen off the Virginia coast during the winter -- probably feeding on small fish.

Singing a Different Tune
Discussion of Challenge Question #2
I also asked Challenge Question #2 about the humpback whale songs and why scientists are hearing different songs this year?

Well, that's somewhat of a trick question. Scientists hear different songs every year. Humpback songs change -- some years quite a lot, other years just a little. It is believed that only the males sing, and that it may be related to mating -- that's why most of the singing is done down south. Some researchers have heard an occasional song up north too. But why the whales change their song (and why one song may be higher or lower pitched than the other) is still a mystery.

Migration Delays in the Pacific
I did talk to Allen Tom, Manager of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary about the whales in the Pacific Ocean. He noted that the whales seemed to be a little late in arriving this year (late Dec./early Jan.) compared to the last few years (Nov.). They are undertaking their annual marine mammal count this week. Last year they counted about 2,700 humpbacks along with sperm and pilot whales, monk seals, dolphins and sea turtles (not marine mammals but documented too). The gray whale reports indicate that those whales were late in their migration too this year.

Challenge Question #4
"Why might the humpback and gray whale migrations be delayed this year?"

(To respond to this Challenge Question, please follow the instructions at the end of this report.)

That's all for this report. Here's hoping we hear from our teachers at sea this next week. This is Anne Smrcina from the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary signing off.

How to Respond to Today's Humpback Whale Challenge Questions:

Please answer ONLY ONE question in each e-mail message!

1. Address an E-mail message to:

2. IMPORTANT: In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question #3
(Or Challenge Question #4)

3. In the body of the EACH message, give your answer to the question above.

The Next Humpback Whale Migration Update will Be Posted on March 3 , 1999.

Copyright 1999 Journey North. All Rights Reserved. Please send all questions, comments, and suggestions to our feedback form

Today's News Today's News Report Your Sightings How to Use Journey North Search Journey North