The North Atlantic Humpback Whale's Migratory Route Print E-mail

In Spring, Humpback whales make their way from their Winter feeding grounds to colder waters where they will spend the Summer.

There are three separate populations of Humpback whales. Some are found in the oceans of the Southern Hemisphere while another group is found in the North Pacific. The Humpback whales of the North Atlantic Ocean can be seen in the waters off the south shore of Bermuda in the spring as they make their tremendous journey from the Caribbean to New England, the Maritime provinces of Canada, Labrador, Greenland, Iceland and even Norway. Each seasonal migration is a testing journey of over 5000 kilometers (3,100 miles).

 

Humpback Migration (Source: www.britannica.com)
Every year some fifteen thousand North Atlantic humpback whales migrate across the Atlantic Ocean from their breeding and mating grounds in the Caribbean to their feeding grounds in the northern latitudes. Most go to the New England states of the US and the maritime provinces of Canada, many make their way up to Greenland, Iceland and Norway.
 

How do we know their migratory routes? By the unique patterns on the underside of the dorsal fins which serve as the equivalent of human fingerprints for identifying individual animals. See Using fluke shots to identify whales for details.

During spring many of the North Atlantic population of migrating whales come by Bermuda. As an isolated seamount in the middle of the ocean, Bermuda provides a unique opportunity to study northern hemisphere humpback whales during their open water crossings. Starting late February until mid-May, humpback whales can be seen on the Sally Tucker and Challengere seamounts some two to fifteen miles offshore. They can also be seen just off the South Shore as close as the breakers, the ring of reefs that are often just a hundred yards from our pink beaches. It’s not unusual to see a breaching 45-foot 45-ton humpback whale emerge completely out of the water just on the other side of the breakers.

Why do the humpbacks pass so close to Bermuda on their open ocean crossings? That's a good question. One hint at the answer comes from the fact that they only pass close to our shores in the spring on their way north to their feeding grounds. They are rarely close to shore in the fall on their way south when their bellies are full. That alone tells us that there's something here that they want when they are hungry.

 

 
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