The Right Whale was named that because it
was the "Right " or best whale to hunt. It was friendly, slow swimming, floated
when killed, and yielded lots of oil and baleen. The whalers killed 1000's of them and
today the population in the North Atlantic is the most endangered in the world. Scientists
from the New England Aquarium in Boston estimate there are 320 left. Of real concern today
are ship strikes, fishing gear entanglements, pollution, and the fact that they only give
birth once every three to four years. Whereas male humpback whales call females in to
mate, with right whales, the females call males into mate. The right whale is the only
large whale that we know of that mates in the Gulf of Maine.
Right Whales are mostly black with some white on their bellies, a smooth back with no
dorsal fin, and large black square flippers. Commonly right whales are often between
thirty and fifty-five feet long and may weigh 100,000 to 200,00 lbs. The right whale's
head makes up about one third of it's overall length while each side of their mouths
contains nearly four hundred 7 to 10 foot long baleen plates. These "plates" are
what the whales have instead of teeth and are used to filter small plankton out of the
water. Baleen is made of carotin the same material as your fingernails and more closely
related to hair than our teeth. Right whales have white callosity patches on their heads
in the same place human males have facial hair. Callosities are horny growths that are
covered in barnacles and whale lice. These patches form patterns which vary enough to each
whale that they can be used to tell them apart and name them.
We saw Right Whales on sixteen trips during the summer of 1996 and during one trip saw
six. We were thrilled to find a baby playing in seaweed on July 16th. This youngster was
using it's head to gently lift the seaweed out of the water. Eventually the young one got
interested in us and came over and swam down the length of the boat. We also saw Right
Whales breaching and skim feeding along the surface with their mouth's open for plankton.
Right whales have large black tails that can be 12 to 16 feet across. We have found that
people always cheer when Right whales show us their magnificent tails when making their
final deep dive.
If you are interested in learning more about Right Whales and helping save them you can
always adopt one. The money from adoptions goes directly toward research aimed at
conserving the whales. Adopting a whale for yourself or as a gift really does make a big
difference for the people involved in protecting them. For more information you may write
to the Right Whale Adoption Program, New England Aquarium, Central Wharf, Boston, MA 02110
or call (617) 973 6582.
Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co. 1 West St. Bar Harbor, ME
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