Subject: Whale without fluke

Nancy Stevick (
Thu, 3 Jun 1999 13:17:19 +0100

On 02 June 1999 04:51, Wyatt wrote:

>I have heard about a whale (I think it was a humpback) that didn't have a
>fluke but was able to keep up with the others during migration. I haven't
>been able to find any information about this though. I thought that you
>be able to help me.

Dear Wyatt,

There was, indeed, a humpback whale that was seen without a fluke.  This
whale was known as Venus.  When it was first sighted in 1980, it did have a
fluke.  Then, the whale suffered an injury to the caudal peduncle (tail
stock) which became infected.  Slowly, over the course of a year or two, the
flesh of the fluke rotted away until Venus was swimming along with the tip
of its spinal column exposed.

This was a grisly event for whale scientists to observe.  Many felt pity for
this whale along with amazement and admiration for its ability to swim and
feed itself with such a horrible and debilitating injury.  Venus was last
seen in 1982.  While the carcass was never recovered, we are quite certain
that it finally succumbed to its injury and died.  We only have sightings of
Venus in the Gulf of Maine, so we don't know if this whale migrated to the
wintering grounds or stayed in the north where food is more plentiful.

There was another whale, known as Silver who lost one half of her fluke to a
ship's propeller.  Silver survived this injury and successfully raised many
calves until her death in 1991.

You can view photographs and sighting data for both these humpbacks if you
go to the On-line Humpback Whale Catalog and look them up by their

Best Wishes,
Nancy Stevick