whale lifting tail by mountains

Besides all the surprise visitors and therewith rare sightings we had these days, we are just as excited to see well-known faces - or flukes to be correct!

Humpback whales, our most common sights, have unique patterns on the underside of their tail (flukes), which make it possible to identify and furthermore, recognise them should the same individual return. 

Yesterday a humpback whale individual that has been known in Skjálfandi Bay since 2011 showed up once again, to the delight of everyone who has spotted it in other years already.

The animal, which is called Porcupine (or Elin) here in the bay, has visited us and other fjords around Iceland almost every year (not in 2013, 2018 and 2021) since it was first sighted twelve years ago. Here in Húsavík it was sighted in 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016 ,2017, 2019 2022, 2023 (Information provided by the HÍ Research Center Húsavík). 

Just like all humpback whales that show up in the North Atlantic, also Porcupine is a migratory animal and known to have shown up around the Dominican Republic during our winter months - its probable breeding grounds.

In November 2014, Hafró (Hafrannsóknastofnun), the Marine & Freshwater Research Institut tagged Porcupine to be able to monitor its migration. 

However, that year Porcupine decided to leave on a rather surprising, yet incredible journey south - or more precisely: a short trip to the tropics!

In January 2015 the animal left Iceland behind and started to head south, upon arrival it spent just 10 days in the Dominican, then turned around and headed back north towards Iceland where it appeared again in May 2015 (spotted and identified in Skjálfandi Bay by Christian Schmidt).

But there's something more to the story:

While Porcupine is such a frequent visitor in Skjálfandi Bay, I'm pretty sure most of you have walked past it already by the harbor area. Did you spot the whale tail sculpture up the stairs? Have a closer look at the white patterns painted on it and compare it with the ones on the underside of the flukes of the actual whale! Do you recognise it? 

Are you curious if the whale(s) you spotted in Skjálfandi Bay are known in Iceland from previous years? Upload your fluke pictures on to learn more about the individual(s) you saw! 

- Sarah

SA Meet Porcupine 4

SA Meet Porcupine 3

SA Meet Porcupine 2

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