Humpback Flukes from Svalbard – Where else have they been sighted?

Whales have always held a fascination for me. It is simply the sheer size of them. My first wild sightings of whale was quite late in life, as I saw my first breaching Southern Right whale in Gaansbaai, South Africa. I was stood on the high cliffs and simply vowed to get closer images some day. Many years later, I found myself standing on a small ship’s deck (the MS Origo) north of Svalbard, Norway. My heartbeat was as fast as the motor drive of the camera as we watched the hunting humpback whales.

They were bubble-netting, so I found myself photographing a lot of flukes as they dived to create the nets. It was such a great experience, only topped by a sighting of a cruising blue whale. Now there is a thing of beauty that has gone onto my bucket list to photograph.

2 years later, an email popped into my inbox, via my blog, from Frederick Wenzel, a curator of the Cape Verde Humpack Whale Catalogue. He was looking for images of the ventral side of the flukes for their global catalogue. This is done to help research and track the migration pattens of these wonderful creatures.

I jumped at the chance, and sent 23 images (in the gallery below) to him. There are two of these catalogues, the North Norwegian Humpback whale catalogue and the North Atlantic Humpback whale catalogue, so my photos were checked in both. Here is the reply email from one of his associates.


I wanted to let you know that at least one of your Svalbard whales is known to us.

Our na5835 was in four of your photos, your 20120809_2972 is the best, but it is also 3009, 3111 & 3355. About 20 years before you photographed it, that whale visited the breeding and calving area at Samana Bay in the Dominican Republic. By the shortest possible sea route, those sightings are 8,000km apart. It has not been seen again other than that. Thought you might enjoy knowing.




I know that I am such a nerd, but the fact that it was photographed 20 years (8000kms) apart, makes it such a fantastic natural story to me.

Please contact Frederick Wenzel if you have any good fluke shots of humback whales. He would love to add them to the catalogue of photos and thus enhance our understanding a little.


So here is the wonderful creature that was mapped. Hello number NA5835.



 The gallery of images I submitted.



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