Blue whale with calf, video


Wildlife Extra writes about this video:

Drone footage captures rare sight of endangered blue whale mother and calf

Drone footage of a blue whale mother and calf in the Antarctic Ocean has been released by Sea Shepherd, whose ship the Steve Irwin encountered the pair in late January.

“Filming this endangered blue whale and her calf with a drone was unbelievable,” drone pilot Gavin Garrison said in a statement.

“Spotting a blue whale from the deck of the Steve Irwin is a thrill, but being able to film the biggest animals on the planet from the air is truly awe-inspiring.”

Blue whales occur worldwide including Arctic and Antarctic waters, and are famously the largest animals known to ever live, with a maximum length of 32 metres and a weight of up to 181,437 kilograms.

The calves are eight metres long and weigh four tonnes at birth, and wean off their mothers after seven to eight months once reaching 15 metres in length.

Sea Shepherd did not estimate the size of the pair encountered by the Steve Irwin.

The species has been classified as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list of threatened species since 1986.

However, the IUCN recommends listing the Antarctic subspecies separately as critically endangered due to the size of population loss over the past century.

The last population census used by the IUCN lists the Antarctic population at about 1,700 in 1996 and growing at 7.3 per cent every year.

The IWC granted protection to blue whales by 1966 before the total whaling ban in 1986, and says that despite continued whaling by Iceland, Norway, Japan and the Russian Federation, no blue whales have been recorded deliberately caught since 1978.

The World Wide Fund for Nature estimates the total global population at between 10,000 and 25,000.

The Steve Irwin is in the Southern Ocean as part of Sea Shepherd’s Operation Icefish, targeting illegal fishing of the Antarctic toothfish.

Another sperm whale beaches in England


This video from England says about itself:

A sperm whale died on Hunstanton beach on Friday January 22 2016 after becoming stranded in shallow water. Video: Peter Naylor, Schoolhouse Digital Ltd.

Today, another sperm whale beached near Hunstanton. People are trying to save its life, but is uncertain whether they will succed.

Sperm whales beach in Germany yet again


Beached sperm whales in Kaiser-Wilhelm-Koog, DPA photo

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands today:

In the German part of the Wadden Sea eight sperm whales have stranded. The young animals washed up about two kilometers off the dike at Kaiser-Wilhelm-Koog, a village in the state of Schleswig-Holstein.

The animals are between 9 and 12 meters long. One of the animals was still alive for a while, but the others were all already dead, say the Coast Guard and German conservationists from the organization LKN.

Last month in Germany, the Netherlands and Great Britain together already sixteen sperm whales beached and died. The animals are believed to have lost their way and so to have ended up in the North Sea, which is too shallow for them and where little food is available.

They may also have trouble orienting there, experts say.

See also here.

Scottish spy base converted for whales, astronomy?


This video says about itself:

Sunfish, Basking Sharks and Minke Whale encounters with Basking Shark Scotland

27 July 2014

A small video of 2 amazing days in the Hebrides, Scotland. We had warm waters from the Gulf Stream reach our coast bringing in a lot of food and ocean giants. We had 2 Minke Whales swim 4 x under the boat, over 12 basking sharks, ranging from 3m to 6m and a very rare visitor – the ocean sunfish (Mola mola). To top it off we had an otter and sea eagles sighted on the way in, numerous porpoises and many different species of seabird. All in water interactions were guided and closely monitored to ensure they meet our code of practice.

From The Press and Journal in Scotland:

Bid to turn former island Cold War spy base into whale-listening station

31 January 2016 by Mike Merritt

A crowdfunding appeal was launched yesterday to turn a former Cold War spy base in the Outer Hebrides into a whale-listening station and star-gazing observatory.

Locals formally took ownership of the isolated surveillance station at RAF Aird Uig on the Isle of Lewis, which was built to give early warning of a Soviet attack following the end of the Second World War.

They symbolically opened the gates of the complex in a ceremony attended by Western Isles MSP Dr Alasdair Allan.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the advance of satellite technology made the base redundant and a pair of long distance radars which had protected the UK for decades were dismantled.

The Gallan Head Community Trust (GHCT) has used a £200,000 grant from the Scottish Land Fund to purchase the land from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and turn a nearby building into a visitor centre, which should be open in the summer.

The trust plans to demolish some of the buildings at Aird Uig and convert the former base into a tourist attraction featuring an astronomical observatory, gallery and visitor centre, in a project that could cost between £1m and £3m.

They will also install underwater microphones to record whales and basking sharks which swim past the peninsula, the most north westerly point of the UK.

Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Dr Aileen McLeod said:”The fact that such a small community has taken this step into community ownership is a testament to the skills, drive and tenacity of the members and directors of GHCT.

“I’m sure that the proposed developments will make a real difference to the local economy and beyond. The Scottish Government is committed to assisting communities in taking control of their own futures, this is why we provide financial support to local communities through the Scottish Land Fund.”

Sperm whale strandings in England


This video is called Secret Life of the Sperm Whale.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

The mystery beaching of a Moby Dick

Friday 29th January 2016

PETER FROST reports on the spate of whale strandings on England’s east coast beaches

SEVENTEEN sperm whales have been stranded on beaches around the North Sea in the last few weeks — five of them on Norfolk and Lincolnshire beaches and the rest in the Netherlands and Germany.

The corpse of a 50ft young adult male sperm whale came ashore at Hunstanton in Norfolk during the night of Friday January 22.

Local rescuers tried to try to save the Hunstanton whale. Coastguards, volunteer divers and the local lifeboat crew, along with staff from the Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary, all failed to push the whale — injured from thrashing in the shallows — back into deeper water.

Hunstanton lifeboat spokesman Geoff Needham told us: “It was a sad end for such a magnificent creature. This large animal was unable to make for deeper water. As the tide was dropping away, nothing more could be done.”

The sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) used to be called the cachalot. Herman Melville’s Moby Dick was a cachalot.

It is the largest of the toothed whales and the largest toothed predator on the globe. It has the largest brain of any animal on Earth, more than five times heavier than a human’s. Sperm whales can live for more than 60 years.

Mature males average 52ft in length but some may reach 67ft, with the head representing up to one-third of the animal’s length.

The sperm whale feeds primarily on squid. It can dive up to 7,382ft for prey and is the second deepest-diving mammal. Only Cuvier’s beaked whale dives deeper.

Females give birth every four to 20 years and care for the calves for more than a decade. A mature sperm whale has few natural predators. It has a distinctive clicking voice used for both echolocation and communication.

The Hunstanton whale was one of a pod of at least six sperm whales which had been observed alive but distressed in shallow waters in the Wash on Friday.

Later three more sperm whales from the pod were found washed up on beaches at Skegness. Thousands of spectators flocked to the beaches to view the whales before the area was closed to the public.

Two of the massive 50ft whales were found on a Skegness beach towards Gibraltar Point at around 8.30pm on Saturday and the third was discovered on Sunday morning at the end of Lagoon Walk.

Richard Johnson of UK Coastguard told us: “We believe that the three whales at Skegness died at sea and then washed ashore.”

On Monday a fifth dead whale was found at Wainfleet, Lincolnshire, on the site of a former bombing range with no public access.

The dead whales are believed to have been part of a group spotted in the Wash on Friday and these are believed to be part of a pod of which 17 have been stranded and died in the Netherlands and Germany earlier this month.

These wandering pods are often made up mainly of adolescent males. They normally feed in the deep waters between Norway and Scotland.

Five whales died after they washed ashore on Texel Island, one of the Frisian islands of the north Netherlands coast two weeks ago. Six more have stranded in Germany in recent weeks.

Sperm whales are deep sea animals and do not belong in the shallow waters of the North Sea. Various theories have been put forward as to why the magnificent mammals were stranded. Were they misled by underwater signals from submarines and military shipping? Or is it another strange result of the changes in the huge ocean currents brought about by climate change?

It is believed that large numbers of squid, the main food of the sperm whales, have been moving through into the North Sea and the whales may have been following them.

Dr Peter Evans, director of the Sea Watch Foundation, said the whales probably swam south through the North Sea looking for food but became disorientated in shallow waters.

“Whales feed on squid and what’s probably happened is that squid came in and the whales fed upon them but ran out of food,” he said.

Examination of the stomachs of the stranded whales showed they had not eaten recently. As whales do not drink but get their fluid intake from food, starvation can quickly lead to dehydration and disorientation.

Scientists have removed the Hunstanton whale’s lower jaw bone and teeth, and taken samples of blood and blubber from its carcass for analysis. This will enable them to establish the age of the whale and its physical condition before its death.

Examining dead whales can be an exciting, if not dangerous, procedure. The huge corpses deteriorate quickly and gases and noxious fluids build up under pressure in the body sealed with thick blubber. They often explode and those explosions are often caused by autopsy chainsaw incisions. This happened with one of the Skegness whales.

From the early 18th century through the late 20th, the sperm whale was heavily hunted by whalers. The head of the whale contains a liquid wax called spermaceti, from which the whale derives its name.

Spermaceti was used in lubricants, oil lamps and candles. Ambergris, a waste product from the sperm whale’s digestive system, is still used as a fixative in perfumes. Regurgitated lumps of ambergris are sometimes found on British beaches and are extremely valuable.

Today the species is protected by a whaling moratorium, and is currently listed as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

The total population of sperm whales in the world is thought to be in the hundreds of thousands. Japan still hunts the species and has killed more than 50 sperm whales since 2000.

Currently, entanglement in fishing nets and collisions with ships represent the greatest threats to the sperm whale population. Other threats include ingestion of marine debris, ocean noise and chemical pollution and, as we have seen this weekend, stranding in unfamiliar shallow waters.

Every year 600 strandings of cetaceans — whales, dolphins and porpoises — occur in the UK, mostly in the north of Scotland, Orkney and Shetland. Only about five or six a year are sperm whales. On Christmas Eve 2011, a sperm whale washed-up at Old Hunstanton Beach. Thousands flocked to see it, just as they have with the recent strandings.

Humpback whales off Belgian coast


This 28 January 2016 video shows a humpback whale, swimming in the North Sea of the Belgian coast near Raversijde.

Two humpback whales were seen there yesterday evening.

This species is better at swimming in shallow water than sperm whales, so there is less chance that they will strand.