Tuesday, May 28, 2013

She's Baaaaack.....

SALT has arrived!

Whale watching season has "officially" begun. Salt, the most famous humpback whale in the world, the Grand Dame of Stellwagen Bank has made her way back to the Gulf of Maine feeding ground.

NECWA's first 2013 sighting of Salt occurred on May 17. NECWA staff member Tammy Silva was whale watching on board the Tails of the Sea with Capt. Tommy O'Reilly. This lucky group of whale watchers found themselves in the middle of a feeding frenzy! About a dozen humpback whales were gorging themselves on sand lance on the southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank.   Then, seemingly out of no where, that famous white dorsal fin appeared off the bow...it was her! Salt! To an experienced whale watcher, the unique white scarring on Salt's dorsal fin is unmistakable. When you see it, you just know it's her and it was so exciting to see her after a long winter!
Salt's dorsal fin
Salt was first sighted in the Gulf of Maine in 1975 and has been sighted every year but one since then. She has had 12 calves and she has multiple grand-calves as well. Through photo-identification, researchers have been able to track her entire family over the years and Salt and her family alone have taught us tremendously important pieces of information about humpback whale life history. Salt's last known calf was born in 2010 and was named Zelle (all of Salt's calves have names related to salt or condiments!). Humpback whales typically give birth to a calf every 2-3 years and some NECWA staff were secretly (or very openly and excitedly!) hoping she would return with a calf #13 this year. But it looks like Salt does not have a calf this year, as she was sighted alone. Maybe next year! We are all looking forward to more sightings of Salt this season!

Salt's ventral tail pattern
To read more about Salt and to view her family tree, visit: Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies