The same whales are crossing the ocean to return to Bermuda year after year, as these photographs illustrate.
As whale watching season approaches, conservationist Andrew Stevenson is asking the public to e-mail their photos so he can check for returning visitors.
Mr. Stevenson, the filmmaker behind the Humpback Whale Film and Research Project, has collected 400 fluke IDs in the past four years.
Under each Humpback’s tail or fluke is its ‘fingerprint’ — an individual set of markings.
Using photos taken of the whales, Mr. Stevenson and the Allied Whale group at the College of the Atlantic, in Bar Harbor, Maine, have succeeded in identifying Humpbacks making repeat journeys to Bermuda.
Some, such as Harry Potter — so nicknamed due to a ‘lightning flash’ mark on its fluke — have returned at least four times.
Mr. Stevenson’s research is providing marine scientists with valuable insights into the lives of these migratory animals.
Above, the first photo was taken by Kelly Winfield on May 5, 2005. It shows a curved line on the whale’s right fluke. The second photo was taken by Mr. Stevenson on April 11, 2009. The distinctive mark reveals it is the same whale.
A third photographer, Chris Burville, also took a shot of the animal, on April 24, 2007.
“These matches indicate the Humpbacks seem to be coming back to Bermuda year after year,” said Mr. Stevenson. “It also shows how important it is for other photographers to send us their fluke IDs.
“If Chris and Kelly hadn’t contributed their fluke IDs we would have had no idea the same whale was here in 2005, 2007 as well as 2009.
“It all helps me to build up the database of research and fluke IDs so that we can better determine the pelagic migratory behaviour of the North Atlantic Humpbacks.”
Whales have already been spotted this year off the South Shore.
They are not usually seen in Bermuda until their migration north from the Caribbean in the spring.
Mr. Stevenson said the early sightings point to a possible re-colonization of Bermuda as a breeding ground.
Report your whale sightings to Mr. Stevenson at email@example.com or call 777 7688 (77-SPOUT). Website: www.whalesbermuda.com.