Friday, January 13, 2012
FTV 1/13/2012 A Whale of a Tale
Now that we have safely passed the protected waters of the Atlantic Right Whale we
were able to pick up some speed as we head south from South Carolina after a fuel stop.
The right whale got its name because it was the “right” whale to hunt. It is a slow
swimmer and spends most of its time in easily reached coastal waters. When it dies, its
thick layer of fat keeps it floating at the surface. About half of the recorded deaths have
resulted from collisions with ships or entanglements in fishing gear. Also the whales
absorb mercury and other toxins from all of the rivers that flow into the Atlantic
Scientists can identify the whales’ likely locations through the year, as a result they
have been able to work cooperatively with government and the shipping and fishing
industries. In 2000, the U.S. began to require that every ship alert the Coast Guard
when it comes into a habitat. More recently, the U.S. and Canadian governments
designated three habitats as “areas to be avoided” by ships when the whales are there.
We passed through the North Atlantic habitat which lies within fifty miles of the East
Coast of the United States and the Canada Maritimes. These waters have heavy traffic
by the shipping and fishing industries, which have been blamed for the slow recovery
rate of endangered right whale populations.At the center of the new Sant Ocean Hall at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History is a life-sized model of one of the largest creatures that ever lived, the North Atlantic right whale. More than a representation of a species, it is a faithful portrait of an individual whale, a female named Phoenix. Born in 1987, Phoenix is still plying the waters between Florida and Nova Scotia. Like the mythical phoenix, she has risen from an ordeal: in 1997, she became entangled in commercial fishing gear—a common cause of death for right whales—and carried pieces of a heavy line with her for more than a year. She has two scars from the incident, on the lip and the tail, which the model includes in exact detail.
Phoenix is officially known as #1705 in the North Atlantic Right Whale Catalog, a database maintained by the New England Aquarium. The four-digit number represents a bit of hopeful thinking about the future. Though an international treaty gave protected status to the world’s three species of right whales in 1935, the North Atlantic whales are today on the brink of extinction: there are fewer than four hundred of them.
Do these activities to learn to identify whales like scientists do.
Here are the pictures to help you solve the whale activity
Learn some amazing whale facts