Last summer, it was one whale; this summer it was two for a Vancouver Island environmentalist and photographer.
Peter Hamilton, Lifeforce Ocean Friends founder, took photos of the first humpback whale on July 1 and July 21 in the waters near Comox.
On July 27, he was out on the waters again when he came across the second whale and snapped photographs as well.
Lifeforce Ocean Friends has worked with the Marine Research and Education Society (MERS) to identify the humpbacks They have since determined this was the first time the whales’ visits to the region were recorded. Hamilton said the photographs are being posted in the MERS Humpbacks of Northern Vancouver Island catalog.
“They are first-time visitors when they have not been previously ID’ed for the catalog,” he said in an email to Black Press.
As of 2019, Lifeforce has contributed 32 photos to the catalog, though Hamilton adds some of these are improved photos of animals in previous submissions.
The two have been given nicknames. The first is being called “Spock.” Hamilton explains this is based on the humpback’s unusual dorsal fin. It is pointed in a shape similar to the ears of the character Spock from Star Trek.
The second was nicknamed “Harbor.” The animal has a white pigmentation shape on the left side of its fluke that, Hamilton says, resembles a harbour seal. As well, he says the name is to encourage safe harbour in order to cherish and protect the animals.
“Getting to nickname a humpback is certainly a special honour,” Hamilton said. “Lifeforce continues our very important research that started in 1993. It has led to increased protection for orcas, and now we hope that it will raise public awareness of the plight of humpbacks and others. As their numbers increase in local waters they are being entangled in fishing gear and severely injured by boaters.”
He is not sure of the age of the humpback whales, but he thinks they might have come from waters around Hawaii or Mexico.
In July, 2018, Hamilton had photographed another humpback with a plane-type mark on its fluke. The whale made more than 20 repeated breaches when it was first seen in local waters. He nicknamed it “Arial.”