First Gray Whale spoted

Gray WhaleThree years ago, it was all so clear and unequivocal.

Gray whales live in the North Pacific. They apparently once also lived in the North Atlantic, but appear to have been driven into extinction no later than the eighteenth century. No gray whale had been seen in the Atlantic basin for close to 300 years.

And then one showed up. In May 2010, a gray whale was spotted off the coast of Israel; two months later, the same whale was seen off Spain.

OK, so gray whales are almost never seen in the Atlantic basin. But they’ve never been found in the Southern Hemisphere, right.

On May 4, four tour boats on dolphin-spotting cruises near Namibia’s Walvis Bay spotted an unusual whale. Eight days later, photographs taken by John Paterson of the Albatross Task Force confirmed the improbable: the lone whale was a gray whale – the first one ever recorded south of the equator.

Comparison with photographs of the errant Mediterranean gray from 2010 appeared to confirm that it was not the same whale. And so, as Paterson wrote in a blog post for the Namibian Dolphin Project, “The question is now ‘what is the origin of this whale?’”

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