The Scuttlefish

Love the Ocean. Wish you were here.

Category: whales

Wish You Were Here: Titirangi Bay, Cook Strait, New Zealand

Scuttlefish writer Owen James Burke is currently rambling around New Zealand in a camper van with a camera, surfboard and speargun in search of stories, waves and fish. We’re putting together a waterperson’s guide to the island nation, but meanwhile, we’ll be publishing stories and photographs, short updates along the way from the Yankee in Kiwiland. -CD


Photo: Owen James Burke.

It’s a long dirt and gravel road full of hairpin switchbacks to the outer Marlborough Sounds, but the view alone is well worth the journey, even in a tired old truck such as Raw Paua.


Photo: Owen James Burke.

These are the old whaling grounds of the European settlers, who built lookout stations on the tops of these hills in order to spot the abundance of sperm and humpback whales passing through the Cook Strait. Whaling in New Zealand came to an end in 1964, but some of the stations still stand today. They’re a long hike out, but recommended. Leave the spear at home.


A Whale Bone Once Belonging to Sir Ernest Shackleton Just Auctioned in England for a Scant $1800


Shackleton gifted this whale vertebrae to his sisters in 1907 when his ship, the Nimrod, was anchored in Torquay before he set out for Antarctica. Photo credit: BBC.

The vertebrae was among a trove of items in an auction for a school in Devon, England, where auctioneers had set an unbelievably modest guide price of £300 (or about $450). And to think a stale old biscuit from the Titanic just went in a Southampton auction house for about $23,000…

“It’s nice to keep it in Torquay where it has been for more than 100 years,” said the highest bidder, a local jeweler.

Read more at the BBC.


. . . And Now, A Whale-Riding Sea Lion off Baja California

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Screenshot from the video below.

Sea lions have been recorded doing some remarkable things, not least of which eating sharks. Now, we can (officially) add gray whale-riding to their repertoire.

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“The Ocean is a Scary Beautiful Place.” Life in Salt: Karim Iliya on Travel, Photography and Flying Drones Over the Red Sea for His Upcoming Freediving Documentary

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“For me, it’s about seeing things, and the camera is just a machine. I just use that machine to show people how I view existence.” Photo: Krannichfeld Photography/Courtesy of Karim Iliya.

At just 24 years old, British-born Maui-based photographer and videographer Karim Iliya’s curiosity has led him around the globe by sea, sky and land, to which his vast range of subjects are testament. He’s trekked the Arctic, dived into a humpback whale brawl off Tonga, and filmed a volcanic eruption in Guatemala. You might not believe it from his age, but the list goes on.

Ten years ago, when Karim first started with a point-and-shoot camera, his dream was to travel the world taking photographs. Today, he’s a wizard behind the lens, and a masterful drone pilot. We caught up with him in China, on his way to North Korea, where he’s hoping he might be allowed to boot up his camera.

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Whale Burps up Sea Gulls: Sadly They Don’t Survive the Ride


Dead seagulls floating. Photograph posted on Facebook by James Mead Maya.

Last week, over 30 dead seagulls were sighted by James Mead Maya while he was captaining his boat at sea. Perplexed as to what happened to the seagulls, he reached out to a fellow captain who was nearby. That captain recalled having seen a humpback whale come up through a school of herring to feed and the seagulls, who were also feeding on the herring and became the whale’s ‘bycatch’.

After the humpback’s huge gulp that allows it capture and filter a large amount of prey, the whale went down for about five minutes. When the whale resurfaced, it proceeded to burp up/expel the dead gulls, thus the picture of the sighting above.

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Some Whales That Dodged Harpoons in the Days of Herman Melville Are Still Alive and Well Today

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It may be unlikely, but it’s quite possible that some of these mammoths crossed beneath the feet of American novelist Herman Melville while he was aboard a whaling ship in the 1840s, unwittingly researching his forthcoming tome.

Bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) are baleen whales that can grow up to 60 feet long and weigh just as much in tons. Their heads, over a third the size of its body, are built to smash through ice–up to a foot-and-a-half thick–on their way to the surface.

They’re also the longest-living mammals on earth (the oldest ever to be aged was 211), and a few who are still alive today were plying the Pacific around the same time Herman Melville was stumbling around the deck of a Yankee whaling ship and penning his classic tale of the elusive white whale.

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Humpback Whale Songs, in Sheet Music


Screenshot from video below.

We first heard whale songs thanks to a network of microphones designed to detect Soviet submarines, but it wasn’t till a group of scientific researchers and mathematicians got together and aligned their clicks, moans and groans that we were able to make their sounds more “electronic than melodic, a full range of the kinds of crazy sounds that humans call music today,” writes David Rothenberg at Medium.

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The Unlikely Harmony Between Killer Whales and Whalers in 19th Century Australia and Other Wonders of Cetacean-Human Relations, Explored in Two New Books


The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins, Hal Whitehead and Luke Rendell, 2014.

Killer whales are xenophobic dupes. Bottlenose dolphins are rapists. We’ve come to accept these highly intellectual social constructs in other mammals, but can we come to understand that if other mammalian societies have such organized complexities, that perhaps they have implications for humankind, too? These are the questions posed by Hal Whitehead and Luke Rendell, authors of The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins, and Carl Safina in his latest book, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel.

The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins by Hal Whitehead and Luke Rendell–two lifelong cetacean researchers–explores the very divergent cultural constructs of orca (killer whales–dolphins, actually) and sperm whales.

Read an excerpt from The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins below:

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