Saturday, December 6, 2008

Right Whales and Great Whites

We often get so caught up in land matters that it's nice to hear about what's happening off our shores. Below, is an article recently published in our local paper, The Bluffton Today. To see the entire article, please click on the highlighted copy.

"SAVANNAH — Highly endangered north Atlantic right whales are making their way back to local waters.

A survey team from the Wildlife Trust spotted a pair of adult females traveling south about seven miles off Charleston harbor on Nov. 23. The next day they saw another adult female about six miles off the Savannah River.

They also spotted the first mother/calf pair of the season, about seven miles off Hilton Head Island, said Dianna Schulte, who leads the South Carolina survey team for the Wildlife Trust.

Right whales, considered America’s urban whales because of their tendency to stay near the East Coast, spend summers feeding in New England and Canadian waters.

The females migrate south in the late fall to their only known calving grounds, off the coast of Georgia and Florida. Last year, 23 calves were born. Once hunted nearly to extinction for their oil, fewer than 400 individuals are thought to be alive now. Their biggest threats today are ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear. A new federal regulation that goes into effect Dec. 9 takes aim at the former by requiring large ships to slow to 10 knots (about 12 mph) in areas where the whales feed and reproduce, as well as along migratory routes in between.

The speed restriction will extend out 20 nautical miles off the coast along much of the whales’ migration route annually from November through April."

The same day the article was published, I received this email from the local SC Master Naturalist Chapter. What do the young ones say......" Way cool?" I think it applies!

Fellow Naturalists,

As Naturalists we're always very curious about any flotsam or jetsam on our beaches..........check out the attachment from Al Segars,'s this for a "biofact" washed up recently on Morris Island at the mouth of Charleston Harbor.

How about a 13.2 ft female Great White Shark, Carcharodon carcharias!.........this beauty is quite a rare sighting in SC, several have been caught in recent years, usually by longliners fishing for commercial finfish far offshore........I got a chance to see the 1st two Great Whites ever caught in SC........two 6ft. "pups" caught by a swordfish longliner way back in the early 80's.........Whites are typically here during the colder months, Nov-April, perhaps to feed on migrating Right Whales which calve off Georgia & Florida........they also like our big red and black drum.........this sexually immature female had only a few red drum scales in her gut, though the carcass sat for 7 days and contents could have been digested during that signs of external trauma & internal tissues appear to be healthy.......biologists guess that she's about 10-13 years old and have pulled vertebra for more accurate aging.........they guess that she was feeding in shallow water and became disoriented.......her jaws will be in the collections at the SCDNR lab at Ft. Johnson.

A little more info....
There are two groups whales (the Order of Cetaceans). Toothed and baleen. Right whales are filter-feeding whales (baleen). Only baleen whales used songs during courtship. Only the toothed whales (dolphin, orcas and sperm whales) use sonar.

Sharks have skeletons made of cartilage but no bones. Only the mouth parts of a shark are made of bone but they are not attached to the cartilaginous skull. That's why both jaws project out of its face when prey is attacked. Remember holding onto your seat when you saw the movie JAWS? Yup, that image of the teeth/jawbones extending out kind of stays with you doesn't it?


  1. Hi Pam,

    I thought I'd stop by and catch up on your latest journaling adventures, especially with watercolor pencil and waterbrush. Instead I found this fascinating article. That is one big shark in the photo, at least from my limited shark experience. And I'd never heard of the 'urban whale'. You learn something every day....

  2. Thanks for stopping in, Ken! Glad you enjoyed the current ocean happenings. Can you imagine stumbling upon a Great White on the beach???

    I hope to have more journal postings soon. Christmas commission jobs will be done soon enough. I'm enjoying looking at your watercolor pencil fun!