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A rare visit. Photo: Jesper Skovlund Rosenmai 

A rare whale

23 days ago
Written by Ronald Toppe
Life on board > A rare whale

A rare whale

23 days agoLife on board
Written by Ronald Toppe
A rare visit. Photo: Jesper Skovlund Rosenmai 

They did not see minke whales as the crew first believed, but the much rarer bryde's whales.

- We got an unexpected visit from the deep blue!

This is how Captain Blinkenberg began his expedition log August 30.

- In the middle of the 10 o’clock coffee, the ships carpenter sights a whale on our port quarter only a few cable-lengths away. Quickly we launch one of our MOB-boats and sends an expedition to see if they can identify the whale. Soon we realize that there is not one but two whales. After having a closer look, we believe they are minke whales, he continued.

It takes time to stop a sailing vessel, and the whale is probably gone when the ship has stopped moving. But this Tuesday, the forecast said little wind, and Blinkenberg wanted to use this opportunity to have a research and swimming stop.

Statsraad Lehmkuhl was already lying still when the whales appeared.

Bryde whale

Bosun Jesper Skovlund Rosenmai took a camera out in the MOB boat, and content producer André Marton Pedersen launched the drone. They took great pictures of what the experts at the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research say are not minke whales, but bryde's whales.

Bryde's whale. Photo: Jesper Skovlund Rosenmai 
Bryde's whale. Photo: Jesper Skovlund Rosenmai 

The species is named after the Norwegian Johan Bryde, who was a whaler and ship owner, and also established the first whaling station in South Africa.

Baleen

The adult bryde's whales are 9-18 meters long, and weigh 12-20 tonnes. It is estimated that there are between ninety and one hundred thousand of them in total.

Bryde's whales live in the tropics, and are related to the much larger blue whales. Just like its huge relatives, the bryde's whale has baleen and no teeth.

The baleen hang down like a brush from the upper jaw, and the blue whale uses it to filter out plankton from the seawater.

The baleen from a bryde's whale. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The baleen from a bryde's whale. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The bryde's whales don't care about plankton, they gape over shoals of anchovies, herring, and other small fish, push the water out through the baleen, and swallow the catch.

The species is quite shy, so the people on board Statsraad Lehmkuhl were very lucky to see bryde's whales up close. The lack of sociability is the reason why the scientists do not know very much about them.

Scars made by sharks

If you look carefully at the picture below, you will see that the skin is has several small round marks.

Scarred. Photo: Jesper Rosenmai
Scarred. Photo: Jesper Rosenmai


The marks are scars from shark attacks, the Japanese researchers who are now on board Statsraad Lehmkuhl could tell.

Hungry cookie cutter sharks have attacked the whale, and cut out completely round pieces of the skin. The half-metre-long shark is also called a cigar shark, as it is brown and has a body shape like a cigar.

A cookie cutter or cigar shark. Photo: NOAA
A cookie cutter or cigar shark. Photo: NOAA

Keeping lists

The research students on board Statsraad Lehmkuhl have special shifts where they look for whales, and can now add a new species to the list, along with time and position.

The ship also has a hydrophone on board, a microphone that works underwater. This is used to record the sound made by whales and other organisms living in the ocean, and can thus identify animals that are not as willing to be photographed as these whales were.

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The One Ocean Expedition is a circumnavigation by the Norwegian tall ship Statsraad Lehmkuhl. We aim to to share knowledge about the crucial role of the ocean for a sustainable development in a global perspective.

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