Despite several days of adverse conditions, last week proved to be very conducive for observing fin whales in the Marine Park! Monday, July 4th was an exceptional day. During the first two cruises of the day, we spied on Orion, a fin whale frequently observed in the park, and Bp913, an individual known since 1997.
However, it was the third cruise that held the greatest surprise. In the course of the day, Orion, Bp913, and two other individuals had converged on the same site. When we arrived, they all seemed to be feeding, but the calm did not last long! After a few minutes, one individual began repetitively slapping its pectoral fin on the water surface. It then made a half-breach out of the water, lifting its head and landing on its belly with a huge, thunderous splash! I was speechless: I had never heard of such behaviour in fin whales. Indeed, fin whales are much less active at the surface than their cousin minke whales and we usually see just their spouts and their backs.
This exceptional behaviour was repeated twice. It is difficult to say what the reason for all this surface activity was. Perhaps it was a hunting strategy? Or a way of communicating with its comrades? One thing is for sure: I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled and my camera handy in the weeks to come!
Jaclyn Aubin joined the GREMM team this year. As part of the photo-census program of large rorquals in the Marine Park, she collects photos and data on board tour boats. She also shares this information with the editorial team of Whales Online.