Cetacean Society International

Working for whales, dolphins and porpoises worldwide

CSI Photo Gallery

Northern Right Whales

(Eubalaena glacialis)

The tail flukes of this right whale are raised high to help start a deep dive. They must be incredibly powerful to move a 60 ton creature that's shaped like a dirigible. The white marks on the stock, or peduncle, were caused by entanglement in a line. Most right whales have scars or marks from boats or fishing gear, and they are the survivors.
The right whale's "V" shaped blow makes distant identification easy, and always exciting because there are only about 325 alive in the whole North Atlantic. Now that we know how few there are no one but scientists gets this close anymore. The white skin patches are called callosities, hosting many small creatures that color them tan. Callosity patterns are unique, allowing right whales to be identified even from airplanes.
Perhaps this whale's flukes were bent by a boat collision. Unfortunately this is a common event because right whales at the surface may not hear an approaching boat and they often swim slowly. Their habitat for thousands of years has been in coastal waters. Now they must share it with countless boats and widespread pollution.
We can't know why this whale would breach. Perhaps his skin itches, he is communicating with other whales, or there is a big shark nearby, but he might just be playing. His powerful tail can lift his 60 tons almost out of the water.
This whale is rolling slowly on the bottom sand, eight feet below. Some have been seen with mud on their heads from a sea floor more than 100 feet below. They may be scraping off parasites, or just playing. It's hard to tell that this is one of the largest creatures on earth. Right whales don't strand by accident, as some deep water species do.
This mother and calf right whale are precious because there are so few left. In one year five of six babies died. Right whale babies stay with their mothers at least a year. They behave like puppies but are the size of a bus. Like all of the great whales they grow incredibly quickly, nursing on fat-rich milk.

Southern Right Whales

(Eubalaena australis)

Who is more curious, these whale watchers or this southern right whale? Here, at Puerto Piramides, Argentina, people don't have to stay 500 meters away from right whales, as in the U.S., because the population is healthy and the rules are still being made. (Photo by Graciela Kaden.)