North Atlantic Right Whale Mom and Calf

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Uncategorized

Mom is on the left and the calf on the right in the single picture above. In the other pictures, the calf is the one with the white belly showing. .

Click on pictures to enlarge them.

Photos by Keith Rittmaster & Brooks.

We had a truly exciting sighting of a right whale mom and her calf, the calf was less than 3 months old.
This was a while ago, May 23, 2008, but looking at these pictures again I had to share them.
New England Aquarium keeps a catalog of Atlantic Right Whales, identifying each whale by several criteria, especially their unique pattern of callosities (raised tissue) primarily on the top of the head.
It was a beautiful sunny day, May 23, 2008, we were out doing our dolphin Photo ID work when we saw the pair. There had been reports by boaters of sightings for the past 2 days, but we hadn’t been able to verify them. We were thrilled by their beauty and saddened that less than 400 of them are surviving in the Atlantic Ocean.
They were 1/2 a km off Shackleford Banks and 3 km east of Beaufort Inlet near Cape Lookout, NC. The right whale females are usually 9 or 10 before their first calf. The males don’t usually sire a calf until about 15 years of age. Gestation is 12 – 14 months and the calves only stay with their Mom for approximately a year. A short time for a whale .Since they spend 80% of their time under water, there is much we don’t know.
this is the energetic calf.

To have perspective, the right whales grow up to 55 feet long and to 70 tons. That is big. This is Mom in front of a boat. Remember, the dorsal fin you see, is only about 1/2 way down the body.

We learned from New England Aquarium that they know this female well. She is #1321 and named Mono. She was first photographed in our area in October 1990 with a young calf. This calf from 2008 is her fourth, the last one was born in 2004. There is often 6 -7 year interval between calves. Interestingly, this one was born quite late and her first calf (that we know about) in 1990 was born quite early. I guess she didn’t read the book.
This link, rwcatalog will take you to the New England Aquarium North Atlantic Right Whale Catalog, click search for individual whales and put in her #1321.
A sighting like this is a gift that stays with you.

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