In the past three decades, only three North Atlantic right whales have been seen off Iceland.
This week, some lucky tourists with Elding Adventure at Sea caught sight of the endangered species northwest of Reykjavik. The Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium were even able to recognize the specific animal.
Some incredible images were also taken of the unusual sighting.
“Photographs taken by Captain Guðlaugur Ottesen Karlsson allowed members of our right whale research team to identify the whale as Mogul (Catalog #3845)—a 10 year old male born to Slalom (#1245) in 2008,” the center said in a statement.
There are perhaps 450 right whales left on the planet and searchable catalogue of them is kept.
The three different whale identified off Iceland’s shores in the last 30 years have included two reproductive age females and a third whale of unknown age or sex. No calves have been spotted.
“All three have some long gaps in their sighting histories, the longest being 15 years,” the center added. “Given their sparse sighting histories, it is not too surprising that they are traveling to distant habitats.”
This first sighting of Mogul “does not fit the profile of the other Iceland whales at all,” officials said.
Mogul was previously seen off the Bay of Fundy in 2017 and the Northeast Fisheries Science Center saw him skim feeding off Marshfield, MA on April 21, 2018.
“His mom is seen regularly and frequently in the main habitats along the eastern seaboard of the U.S. and Canada, and Mogul has been seen many times each and every year since his birth in 2008, and almost always near the coast,” the aquarium adds.
The right whale was hunted to near the brink of extinction and despite decades of conservation efforts, has yet to rebound.
“Whalers gave the name ‘right’ whale to this species because they thought it was the ‘correct’ whale to hunt,” Elding Adventure explained. “It was easy to kill because it swam slowly and once dead, it floated. This made it easier for the whalers to pull the whales onto ships and to shore, to boil the blubber for oil.”
In the last few years, a rapidly changing ocean environment has prompted a change in feeding patterns of the species.
And after Monday’s Mogul sighting, it’s making experts wonder whether more right whales might pop up around Iceland soon.
Photos Elding Adventure at Sea