We've been back on the water for the last two weeks, and the comeback couldn't have been more thrilling, even in our wildest dreams. As we have the opportunity to return more frequently to the bay, we are seeing a lot of activity during our whale watching tours.
Summer is a great season to see whales but this year seems to be particularly good for it. Last days we have spotted pods of white-beaked dolphins, harbour porpoises and huge numbers of minke whales. Even though we are super excited about these sightings, the cherry on the top of the cake has been the extraordinary numbers of humpback whales in the bay.
Our team has been able to photograph at least 10 different individuals. Thanks to their efforts, we can photo-ID each whale and check if we have seen them before. In this case, we could confirm that at least 2 humpback whales have been under our radar before: King Louis and Tattoo.
King Louis (MNA16091900): This individual was spotted for the first time in Eyjafjörður (North-Iceland) in September 2016. It's been a regular visitor in the North for three consecutive years (2016-2017-2018) and now it's back again! What makes King Louis a very interesting whale is its tendency to form group associations with other humpbacks. It was named King Louis because it was regularly seen with a famous group among whale watchers: the four musketeers (Aramis-MN14040500, Porthos-MNA16082300, D'Artagnan-MNA16090202 and Athos-MNA16082101).
Tattoo (MN16042600): This very characteristic humpback whale is very easy to tell apart from others, as there are quite a few tooth rakes in its fluke (probably caused by Orcas) that look like tattoos. It was spotted for the first time in April 2016, and it has been quite regularly seen since in the last years. This humpback likes to be a part of group associations too, but apparently it had a natural inclination to pair with others: Arnar-MNA16072002, Dark Knight-MNA16062500 or Giljagaur-MNA16120300 are some of the whales spotted along side with Tattoo during the summer of 2017 in Eyjafjörður. During our encounter with Tattoo a few days ago, it was also seen in the company of another whale.
Why whales are here?
The presence of these humpbacks in big groups is not uncommon and they tend to gather together especially when the food availability is high. Thanks to the massive presence of a tiny schooling fish, sandeel, all these big mammals can feast for weeks before they keep on going on their trip around Iceland. What is interesting is that the sandeel population has suffered a major crash in the last years, and its return to Icelandic waters is a good sign, not only for whales, but also for seabirds (puffins, kittiwakes, gannets) as they also rely on it for their survival.
New whales – we need your help to name them!
Please take a look at fluke patterns below and let us know if you can think of the perfect nickname for any of those individuals! Share your ideas in the comment section of our Facebook post.
Article written by researcher Rodrigo and naturalist Ewa