Subject: migration (fwd)

Michael Williamson (
Tue, 31 Dec 1996 12:05:33 -0500 (EST)

Date: Mon, 30 Dec 1996 13:34:28 -0500 (EST)
From: Robert Kenney <>
To: "Janine M. Slotterback" <>
Subject: Re: migration

On Fri, 27 Dec 1996, Janine M. Slotterback wrote:

> I will be in Aruba from Feb.28th to March 3rd.  Is there any chance that 
> I can see any whales.  Do they migrate that far south?  If not, if I have 
> a window seat, is there any possibility I could see any from the plane?  
> Maybe between Florida and Puerto Rico or Puerto Rico and Aruba?

According to David and Melba Caldwell (DKC & MCC, 1983, A Field Guide to
Marine Mammals of the Southeastern United States and Caribbean Basin, U.S.
Dept. of Commerce, NOAA, National Marine Fisheries Service, Southeast
Fisheries Center, Miami, FL), the following species could be found in the

	Minke Whale
	Fin Whale
	Blue Whale
	Sei Whale
	Bryde's Whale
	Humpback Whale
	Antillean (Gervais') Beaked Whale
	Cuvier's Beaked Whale
	Sperm Whale
	Pygmy Sperm Whale
	Dwarf Sperm Whale
	Rough-toothed Dolphin
	Tucuxi (Guiana Dolphin)
	Many-toothed Blackfish
	Pygmy Killer Whale
	False Killer Whale
	Short-finned Pilot Whale
	Killer Whale
	Fraser's Dolphin
	Risso's Dolphin
	Bottlenose Dolphin
	Striped Dolphin
	Pan-tropical Spotted Dolphin
	Atlantic Spotted Dolphin
	Spinner Dolphin
	Clymene Dolphin
	Common Dolphin

Not all of these would be expected to be seen near Aruba.  You can be sure
that, if whales or dolphins are commonly seen anywhere nearby, that some
enterprising business-person has already set up a whale-watching
operation.  Just check the tourist brochures or talk a walk along the

As for seeing whales from airplanes - Puerto Rico is a great place for
humpbacks at that time of year.  But there are a couple of problems. 
Commercial airlines almost always fly way too high (not to mention too
fast) to see anything.  I spent four years in the Navy, flying in
anti-submarine patrol planes for hundreds of hours from Iceland.  I spent
a lot of time looking out the window when I wasn't busy, and never saw a
single whale.  And they were there - we dropped a sonobuoy right over a
vocalizing humpback once.  When we fly whale surveys now, we fly between
500 and 750 feet, while commercial airlines usually fly above 25,000 feet. 
The other problem is, even if you are low enough and slow enough, and
there are whales there, it takes some training and practice to know what
to look for.  When we are training new observers, sometimes you have to
point at a whale several times before they can see it at all. 

Dr. Bob Kenney