It’s always exciting to start a new year with a whale-watching tour since it almost feels like the first species sighted will set the tone for the rest of the year. The pandemic of 2020 that left almost the entire planet in quarantine also emptied the ocean of severe marine traffic for some months which dramatically reduced levels of noise pollution. In other words, it made the ocean a better place for all cetaceans, particularly for beaked whales and baleen whales. Baleen whale sightings, however, were unusually low around Calheta this year and the sudden appearance of a cruise ship, that remained drifting some miles outside the Southwest of the island for some days, made us doubt this would change any time soon.
Then our spotter discovered an incredible surprise; two Fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) were travelling westward and interacting with each other in a behaviour that could well be interpreted as mating. The animals repeatedly disappeared below the surface together before reappearing and emitting an enormous spout near our boats. After a series of shallow dives near our boats the larger of the two, who was likely the female, darted ahead closely followed by the smaller animal before both animals clashed in an explosion of white water and disappeared below the surface. We couldn’t help but imagine that we may have witnessed behaviour that might lead to a baby fin whale in 10-12 months, which can be as long as 6m at birth and weigh up to 3 tons!
It was a humbling sighting and the imagination of it perhaps resulting in a new member of our world’s cetacean community definitely made it an incredibly positive start to 2021!
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
15:00 Fin whales