Scott Marion / New England Aquarium
(Catalog No. 1412)
Right whale No. 1412 is one of the most mysterious in the population—so much so that she doesn’t have a name. She has very few sightings in the catalog, but the few times she has been seen have been very intriguing. She was first sighted in October of 1984. She and her calf were photographed on two different days that month near Jeffreys Ledge, east of New Hampshire. Her next sighting (or so we thought) was also on Jeffreys Ledge in October with a calf…but it was 13 years later! Many of the whales in this population are seen every year, or at least every few years. Where had she been during those 13 years? What’s even more interesting is that no one photographed her and her calf on the calving grounds off the southeastern U.S. in 1997, yet some of the most extensive survey coverage of that area occurred that year. How did this distinctive whale elude detection? Is Jeffreys Ledge her primary fall/winter habitat? Where does she give birth if not in the southeast U.S.?
Some of the mystery was solved when New England Aquarium researchers traveled to Iceland in 2004 to launch a right whale survey of an historic whaling ground southwest of the island. During that visit, they discovered that some whale watch captains had photographed several right whales west of Iceland in previous years. Who should appear in those images but No. 1412! She was sighted near Iceland in 1995 and in 2003. Perhaps this poorly surveyed area is No. 1412’s primary home, and her visits to North America are infrequent. She has lots of white scarring on her head (see picture above) and some have speculated that those scars are the result of bumping into ice.
How many other right whales ply the waters near Iceland, or other offshore habitats? Whales like No. 1412 and Porter make us wonder.