A grey whale named Vavara has just set a new migration record – she traveled from Russia to Mexico and back in 172 days, a total distance of 13,988 miles (22,511 km).
A humpback whale was the previous record holder, at 10,190 miles (16,400 km).
What’s really amazing is that, while GPS tracking makes it a whole lot easier for scientists to see where whales are going, they still have no idea how whales manage to navigate. Some scientists believe that the whale habit of spy hopping – poking their heads straight out of the water – is an attempt to locate coastal landmarks to assist with navigation. Vavara, however, followed different paths on her outward and return journeys. This suggests she knew where she was headed, but didn’t need to take a particular route in order to get there.
I’ve been living near Halifax for four years now, and I can still barely find my way around without my car’s GPS, so I find animal navigation particularly impressive! I also find it somewhat embarrassing that North Atlantic humpbacks feed off the coast of Nova Scotia in the summers and in four years, I haven’t managed to get out on a boat and look at them.
I did write a book about them though – if you’re looking for more info on crazy whale shenanigans, check it out!
What about you? Have you ever been on a whale watching tour? Or gotten lost inside a shopping mall? How do your navigational skills stack up to those of the migratory animals that visit your hometown?