Have a whale of a day
April 4, 2007 2:08 AM   Subscribe

In one of the most remarkable journeys by any creature on the planet Humpback whales travelling between breeding grounds off the west coast of Central America and feeding grounds off Antarctica clocked up more than 5,000 miles on one leg of their journey as recorded by the wonderful people of Cascadia Research Collective.
posted by adamvasco (9 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
"[T]he largest recorded journey by any individual mammal." What about all those Aussie barmen in London heading home for Christmas?
In awe of cetacea
posted by Abiezer at 2:24 AM on April 4, 2007

George and Gracie are offended.
posted by phaedon at 2:25 AM on April 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

Hell, that's nothing. I've seen humpback whales travel 400 years into the future.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 3:42 AM on April 4, 2007

I get around
round... round round round round
round round round round
Round round get around I get around
Yeah get around
oo ooo I get around
I get around...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:58 AM on April 4, 2007

In the same article some other numbers on long distance travelers:

Sooty shearwaters

These seabirds, weighing less than a kilogram, make a 40,000-mile annual migration in search of perpetual summer. In a study published last year, researchers tagged 33 birds in New Zealand. Most had flown an initial leg in April-May across the Pacific to Chile, followed by a huge haul north to Japan, Kamchatka, Alaska or California.

Bar-tailed godwit

One female with a tiny tracking device implanted under her skin flew 6,341 miles without stopping between New Zealand and North Korea, en route to the final destination of breeding grounds in Alaska.

Great white shark

In 2003 South African researchers tagged a female great white and were able to follow her journey of more than 12,400 miles. Named Nicole after the actor and shark lover Nicole Kidman, she made the journey to Australia and back in under nine months.

Monarch butterflies

These butterflies make the 3,000-mile trip from Canada to Mexico and back each year. They spend around five months in the warmer southern climes during winter before heading back northwards.

[The Monarch's journey, to me, is the most remarkable.]
posted by rmmcclay at 5:30 AM on April 4, 2007

Not only do they swim a long ways; they talk a long ways too.

I've read elsewhere that, based on the little bit we know about whale songs, they apparently call to each other, possibly chatting or sweet-talking at great distances -- from hundreds or (in rare instances) even thousands of miles away. The low-freq component of their songs can encounter subsurface "ducting" through the deep ocean and be audible from many weeks' swim away.

(At least, electronically enhanced acoustic receivers can pick them up; I don't know how much we know about cetaceans' auditory systems -- there's been much controversy about how bad active sonar hurts them -- but the theory is that if it's quiet enough out there, they can hear each other.)

To derail further, there's a sea story about a sonar operator who spent most of his career on SSBNs (missile subs), operating mostly in the same general areas all the time. After months and years of this, he got so familiar with listening to the same whales in the same places that he started to perceive individual whale songs and even began recognizing and calling the whales by name. (Which probably annoyed the OOD -- "Sonar, I thought I told you to belay reporting biologics!") Allegedly he got a job at Woods Hole or something like that when he got out of the Navy.
posted by pax digita at 6:08 AM on April 4, 2007

I watched humpback whales in the Bay of Samana a few weeks ago. Seeing them breach was spectacular.
posted by muckster at 6:59 AM on April 4, 2007

WRT Bar-tailed Godwits (aka kuakas in Kiwinese) and their ~7,000 mile Alaska to New Zealand/Australia leg, they don't land on the ocean to rest or feed along the way.
posted by cenoxo at 12:38 PM on April 4, 2007

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