Whales vs. Ships: The Stressful Struggle to Avoid Deadly Collisions

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Imagine this: you’re a massive blue whale, gliding through the vast, seemingly endless ocean.

You’d think with all that space, you’d never have to worry about bumping into anything, right?

Well, think again. It turns out that even in the gigantic blue, whales and ships are having some pretty nerve-wracking close encounters.

Dodging Ships in Patagonia

Take a look at some recent anxiety-inducing data from February. It tracked a blue whale off Patagonia over a week, showing just how frantic it can get.

This majestic creature was zigzagging all over the place, trying to dodge heavy shipping traffic (and that’s not even counting the party boats and jet skis!).

Here’s the thing: blue whales are a bit unpredictable. They spend a lot of time deep underwater but can suddenly pop up to the surface for a snack.

This puts them directly in the path of giant ships with huge, whirring propellers – and the ships often don’t spot them until it’s too late.

When a vessel and a whale collide, the results are often disastrous and sometimes fatal.

Mapping Whale Highways

A study published in Nature suggests we urgently need to map out the whales’ travel routes.

If we can figure out where they’re most likely to be, we can guide ships away from these busy whale highways and reduce the chances of fatal collisions.

A Heartbreaking Collision

But the trouble isn’t just theoretical. In February 2021, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC FWRI) shared a heartbreaking Facebook post.

It told the tale of a 54-foot sportfishing boat that collided with a North Atlantic right whale near St. Augustine Inlet.

The boat was damaged, and its crew was lucky to be safe. Sadly, the whale calf they struck was not so lucky.

The next day, the calf’s body washed up on a beach in Anastasia State Park. It was only a month old and bore the painful marks of the collision.

The Aftermath for Infinity

The mother, known to researchers as Catalog #3230 ‘Infinity,’ was later seen with injuries that also seemed to come from the boat’s propeller.

Her calf had sustained deep cuts and broken ribs – injuries that proved fatal. Infinity is being closely monitored to see how she recovers from her wounds.

The Need for Vigilance

Here’s the kicker: injuries in whales aren’t always immediately obvious. What looks like a minor cut can turn into a deadly infection over time.

This is why it’s so important to understand where these whales are going and how we can protect them better.

Researchers and vessel traffic services need to work together to steer boats away from these gentle giants.

Captain’s Responsibility

For now, the responsibility falls on ship captains. According to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), captains can make a huge difference by slowing down and keeping an eye out for whales.

The magic number? 10 knots. This slower speed gives captains more time to spot whales and whales more time to get out of the way.

Plus, if a collision does happen at this speed, it’s less likely to be deadly. Not only does this save whales, but it also helps prevent damage to the vessels and injuries to passengers.

So, next time you’re on a boat, remember: slow down, enjoy the ride, and keep a lookout. You might just save a whale’s life.


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