Tel Aviv (Global Adventures): A huge solitary grey whale has been spotted in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Israel. Scientists say that grey whales once inhabited the North Atlantic but became extinct in the 17th or 18th century. Radiocarbon dating of grey whale skeletons confirms that the mammals once populated the waters on the American east coast from South Hampton to Jupiter Island.
Today, only two distinct populations are known to exist in the Pacific Ocean. One consists of no more than 160 mammals that presumably travel between the waters around South Korea and the Sea of Okhotsk west of the Kamchatka Peninsula. With 20,000 to 22,000 individuals, the second population is much larger and travels in the Eastern Pacific between Alaska and Baja California.
Adult females can grow
to 45 feet (14 meters) and weigh up to 40 tones. Two blowholes on top of their head create a unique V-shaped blow at the surface. The species lacks the dorsal fin and has a distinctive tail that is up to 12 feet across and deeply notched at the center.
While grey whales
travel on average 75 miles per day at speeds of up to 5 miles, scientists from Israel’s Marine Mammal Research and Assistance Centre have no explanation how the whale sighted off the coast of Herzliya made the trip from the Pacific to the Mediterranean Sea. The animals are known for making one of the world’s longest migration journeys. They travel between 5,000 and 7,000 miles each way from their feeding grounds in the north to their breeding grounds in the south.
“The most plausible explanation is that it came across an ice-free North-West Passage from the Pacific Ocean, and is now wondering where the hell it is,” Phillip Clapham. Phillip Clapham is Program Leader, Cetacean Assessment and Ecology Program at the National Marine Mammal Laboratory in Seattle.
A short video showing the whale surfacing in the Mediterranean Sea appeared on YouTube and is available here.