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After a Century, Blue Whales Return to South Georgia Island

EducateInspireChangeDec 6, 2020, 9:18:10 PM

Endangered blue whales, considered as the largest animal known to have existed, have gone back to South Georgian Island waters, near Antarctica, after a century.

Researchers have recorded dozens of whales in the location after a whale had been observed between 1998 and 2018.

According to Susannah Calderan, a marine mammal ecologist, they have had signs in the past years that there might be more blue whales beginning to return to South Georgia.

However, Calderan continued, they were happily shocked "by quite how many we did see this year." Since these whales were profoundly hunted and abused prior to the banning of whaling, the whales virtually vanished from the waters.

(Photo : David Mark on Pixabay)

Rare blue whales, considered as the largest animal in history, have gone back to South Georgian waters, near Antarctica after a century of almost disappearance.

More Than 30 Whales Sighted

Experts in the field like Calderan believe these marine mammals may have rediscovered the abundance of krill of South Georgia, following the "cultural memory" that was lost because of hunting.

Specifically, scientists discovered about 38 sightings of whales on the surface over a couple of weeks and counted exactly 56 individual whales during the study in January and February 2020.

Researchers could identify whale sounds, as well, on sonobuoys they had placed in the water. Furthermore, scientists were worried that the species of blue whales would not be detected again in the said figures in the place mentioned.


Largest Island

South Georgia is the largest island in an isolated South Atlantic archipelago, also identified as South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

According to LiveScience, the island is roughly 2,500 miles from the coast of Antarctica. However, it is located within the Antarctic conjunction, the hydrological border between the cold waters surrounding "Antarctica and the warmer waters farther north."

It is currently only occupied by people for a couple of months every summer, although South Georgia had a prominent function in the history of Antarctic exploration history.

A century ago, it became the heart of industrial whaling, effectively whaling's "Ground Zero," pioneer for humpbacks, and said to be "later for blue whales."

Reappearance of Whales

Blue whales' extermination in the early 20th century around Georgia may have led to the forfeiture of their "cultural memory" of the richness there, of Antarctic krill, small swimming crustaceans that exist in large swarms in the Southern Ocean, not to mention the blue whales' only food.

Understanding of whale feeding grounds may be transferred to the calves from their mother whales. There was a cultural memory identified, maybe, of animals that came to South Georgia before, that was lost due to the fact that they were wiped out, explained Calderan.

They could not transfer this understanding of feeding rounds as they were not any of them left. Although such evidence of the recent survey proposed, at least, some blue whales have rediscovered the abundance of krill of South Georgia.

Good Sign

Calderan also said she thinks they may "well, be seeing evidence of site fidelity to certain feeding areas," which would be an elucidation for the reason the number of blue whales began recovering in the larger Antarctic. However, it has taken longer for them to recover in South Georgia.

LiveScience also reported that the rise in blue whales around South Georgia occurred following a BAS study indicating that humpback whales' population in the region has also risen, such as blue whales, "humpbacks were all but driven to extinction by industrial whaling.

Commenting on this recent development, Calderan also said, "It's a good sign."

"It's a good sign," Calderan said. "This was an area that was particularly hard hit by whaling, and it is really encouraging that we're starting to see whales there again."

Source: sciencetimes.com

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