They travel over intercontinental distances through the oceans, have very deep voices, filter their food out of the water and sometimes hang out around Madeira: rorqual whales (Balaenopteridae) – the biggest animals on Earth.
There are a few main species, which include the Blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus), the Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus), the Sei whale (Balaenoptera borealis), the Tropical whale (Balaenoptera edeni), the Minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) as well as the Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae). With some good luck and in the right time of the year we might see every one of them.
Today we saw two specimens, which were identified by exclusion: not as big as Blue or Fin whales (besides the size differences those species should be way up in the North during this time of the year), bigger than Minke whales and without the characteristic snout and flippers of Humpback whales. So, the Sei whale and the Tropical whale were the remaining candidates. Representatives of those two species can be easily mixed up on sea. A definite visual identification is only possible by a close look at the rostral ridges on the flat forehead of the animals.
Today the whales were coming up close to us. They also dove right under the boat but during those very impressive moments it is not easy to focus on one particular feature. Therefore, a look at the photos confirmed our initial assumption: there we three of those rostral ridges and this meant that we had encountered Tropical whales. The Sei whales have only one ridge from the tip of the snout to the blowhole.
To observe those majestic animals moving alongside the boat can be touching and shows us how tiny we are in comparison to those gentle giants of the seas.
The sightings of several colorful Dolphinfish (Coryphaena hippurus), Ocean triggerfish (Canthidermis maculate) as well as Almaco jacks (Seriola rivoliana) during the afternoon trip have been another highlight of the day.
by Jan-Christopher Fischer
Sightings of the day
08:30 (Snorkeling) Risso´s dolphins, Tropical whales
12:00 Tropical whales
15:30 Sperm whales, Dolphinfish / Dorado, Ocean triggerfish, Almaco jack
09:00 Blainville´s beaked-whales, Risso´s dolphins, Tropical whales, Loggerhead turtle