Welcome to the Marine Mammal and wildlife Research and Community Development Expedition blog where you can keep up to date with all the happenings and information from Kenya

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

First Humpback Whale sighting of 2010!!!

Finally, as you might have read in our marine blog last week, the first Humpback whale sighting of the current expedition (and the year) took place on the 20th August 2010! Despite their 25 tonne frame and commanding presence, the ‘Megaptera novaeangilae’ of the Southern hemisphere, whose seasonal migratory path panes East Africa every year, had so far been elusive to GVI. We had heard numerous reports from locals and had on several occasions missed sightings by a matter of mere minutes.

-- Finally sighted! - the magnificant Humpback Whale --

Our determined enthusiasm never faltered and we were rewarded by a fantastic sighting of a mother and her calf travelling through the Wasini channel on a sunny Friday afternoon. Staff and volunteers were preparing to cross to the mainland, but their pace quickened considerably after news spread of the whales’ presence. All members fluidly and efficiently boarded Squirrel, our small boat, and took to the water in search of the couple.

-- Late arrivals - a delayed migration might be explained by cooler temperatures --

The Whales were in no mood for hide and seek, the mother proudly announces her arrival with a blow of well over 3m, allowing the Squirrel crew to easily locate her and her calf and travel alongside them. Furthermore, members of the Shimoni expedition were given a clear chance to marvel at this awe-inspiring cetacean from the terraces of the nearby Reef Hotel! The route of the Humpback migration is thousands of kilometres long and progress is slow to conserve energy, so staff and volunteers were lucky enough to observe the creatures for 20 minutes.

However, in comparison to previous years, the Humpback whales are noticeable for their tardiness. In 2008, the first observation was made on the 2nd of August, whilst last year they were first seen on the 3rd of July. Their delay is thought to be due to the particularly long rainy season we have been experiencing, with cooler weather stretching into the normally drier months of July and August. As Humpbacks travel to warmer waters between May and December to mate and breed, this prolonged chill may have offset their timings.

With GVI data from the last two years showing 4 and 12 sightings during the migratory period, we are all extremely excited to continue our surveys from Bardan, with all crew eagerly searching the horizon for the flick of a tail fluke or the spray of a blow. These sightings are not only important for GVI’s catalogue, but also for the general scientific world, as recordings of Humpback whales movement along the East African Coats appear to be spare and not well documented. So, revived by the fresh memories of the mother and her calf, GVI members are ready to face the last two weeks of the expedition, keen to encounter some more whales!!