On our Stenella trip this morning, we really hit the jackpot. No only did we see five different species, but also the rare Northern bottlenose whales. When we spotted them, they swam straight towards us, and jumped out of the water with their nine meter long bodies. Most animals were dark grey, but there was one almost white whale swimming in the pod. Even rarer!
We consulted several experts at the University of Madeira and the Whale Museum, and they confirmed that our pictures seemed to show Northern bottlenose whales. We have never had a confirmed sighting of Northern bottlenose whales before, and so, we were very excited about this sighting!
Because of their very curious behaviour, Northern bottlenose whales used to be an easy target for Norwegian whalers in the 19th and 20th century. While we’ve spotted them today in sub-tropica Madeira, they even occur in icy waters of the Arctic! Northern bottlenose whales feed mainly on deep-water squid, and also fish, sea cucumbers, starfish, mussels and prawns. They are deep-divers, diving up to 1,400 meters to hunt. During their descent, they dive vertically downwards. Their social organization is relatively loose, like for example bottlenose dolphins. But sometimes, very tight and long-term relationships also occur, like we see with the deep-diving sperm whales.
It was definitely thrilling to see this beautiful whale for the first time in Madeira! We welcome them to our waters and hope to have many more sightings.
by Judith Kok
Sightings of the day:
10.00: Pilot whale, Bottlenose dolphins, Rough-toothed dolphins
10.00: Common dolphins, Pilot whale, Bottlenose dolphins, Rough-toothed dolphins, Northern bottlenose whales