Whale of a Tail

After leaving the Dall’s Porpoises, we continued heading southward through Frederick’s Sound. Remember what we saw so abundantly when we passed through the area heading northward? Yeh, humpback whales, by the hundreds (at least, so it seemed). Well, they were still waiting for our return! So, I thought I’d do another post on the humpback whales, this time a somewhat educational look at them.

To identify humpback whales, the “flukes” (tail) are used. Each humpback has a unique pattern and coloration of it’s flukes (underside), tail shape, “notch” in the tail, and trailing edge of the flukes; these unique characteristics are used to identify each individual humpback. It should also be noted that the above characteristics of a humpback’s flukes may change a bit over time. This is primarily due to injury or the whale gaining additional scarring due to scratches, barnacles, etc.

As an example of humpback whale identification, here are 3 humpback whale images I made, showing their flukes (each whale is “fluking”, the process of lifting the tail high out of the water in preparation for a deep dive):


Humpback Whale fluking


Humpback Whale fluking


Humpback Whale fluking


(Note:  the first and third images appear to be the same whale, but I believe they are 2 different individuals. If you look at the righthand side of the fluke, you can see that in the first image there is little-to-no black running down the tail (towards the body), but the third whale seems to have a well-defined black strip that runs ~8 inches or so).

For additional information on humpback whale identification, here is a link to some good information: “How to Identify Humpback Whales”. Another interesting thing is that there are “identification guides” for humpbacks readily available (in books or on the internet) with photos that you can use to compare photos you’ve taken, in the attempt to identify the whale … cool, huh?!

Tomorrow’s post will include a few more humpback whales, photographed against scenic backgrounds.





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