30 July 2008: Migrating giant takes detour to visit small cetacean cousins

Online news service "Der Spiegel" reports that scientists spotted a twelve metre long humpback whale off the coast of the German island of Rügen on Friday, 25 July. This is the first such sighting in 30 years; the last documented incident was on 24 August 1978. Before that, the last recorded sighting of a humpback whale in the German Baltic dates back to 1851.

The two biologists, who were stationed on the island for bird observations, had already suspected that what they saw was a breaching humpback whale. This assumption was later confirmed by Harald Benke, Director of the German Oceanographic Museum in Stralsund. Benke reportedly commented that "this is a sensation - a very very rare occasion! The whale may have been following shoals of fish during its migration to the arctic. When crossing the North Sea it may then mistakenly have turned off into the Baltic Sea while feeding. It is quite likely that the animal will stay in the Baltic Sea for a few weeks - even if there isn't actually enough food to be found. But a humpback whale can deal with this for a while."

Photos of the sighting can be viewed here.

Last updated on 28 May 2014

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