Whale in Calshot Harbour
- Tristan's Whale of a Tale.
Submitted by Tristan Times
On the morning of the 19th January, there was much excitement when it was reported that a whale was in the harbour, it was first seen by David Swain who was working on the barge at the time. It seemed impossible at the time, given that the harbour is less than 2m deep in places, but it was true. The harbour quickly become busy with everyone who had heard came for a look, the school children as well as others in the community.
Plans were put in place to try and get the whale which was badly damage out of the harbour as quick as possible, James and Robin with the help of others got the zodiac out of the boat house and was about to launch it when, Thomas Lafaille a Frenchman working for the CTBTO,* who had a wetsuit in his car at the harbour, entered the water and after a few attempts manage to head the whale out to sea, through the 50ft entrance of the harbour. The whale beached itself again west of the volcano, and again managed to get off. It has not been seen stranded again to date.
From the photos taken and sent to experts, it is thought to be a short-headed sperm whale (Kogia sp), which has not been recorded from the Tristan area before. There are two species, the pygmy sperm whale Kogia breviceps and the dwarf sperm whale Kogia sima. They are quite difficult to tell apart, but the pygmy is bigger (up to 3.3 m, compared to 2.74 m for the dwarf) and the dorsal fin is nearer the tail than the head, whereas in the dwarf it is about in the middle of the body. There are other differences but we would need other views of the mouth, teeth, dorsal fin, etc. However they are reasonably sure it is a pygmy sperm whale from the pictures we sent.
These tend to be repeat stranders, so if it happens to be washed up dead somewhere! We may find it to be something else.
Director of Fisheries
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*The Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) was set up in 1996 with its headquarters in Vienna, Austria. It is an interim organization tasked with building up the verification regime of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) in preparation for the Treaty's entry into force as well as promoting the Treaty's universality.
The home page of their website http://www.ctbto.org/ has some great pictures of some of their monitoring stations, including the one at Tristan.