When asked to talk about the challenges that North Atlantic right whales face, our team often brings up Catalog #2223, named Calvin, because her story encapsulates elements of threat and resilience that right whales experience. Sadly, it was when her mother's life ended that Calvin's story really began.
Calvin and Delilah (diving) in the Bay of Fundy, August 1992.
Calvin was born in 1992 to Delilah, a female first seen in 1981. During their first summer together in the Bay of Fundy, Delilah was struck by a large ship. Her death was not immediate, but the blunt force caused her to hemorrhage. A boater on the water that day photographed Delilah violently thrashing before she finally stopped breathing and became still. Delilah had died from ship strike with Calvin by her side. With no mother to guide her through the ocean and no milk to help her grow, researchers didn't think Calvin would survive—but amazingly she did.
Calvin, all grown up!
Calvin showed resourcefulness and a surprisingly independent nature, and so she was named after the character in the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes. Curating the Right Whale Catalog has allowed us to watch her become an adult and follow her exploits in various habitats. In 2000, she became entangled in fishing gear, but luckily was disentangled by the Center for Coastal Studies in 2001. She still bears the scars on her head, body and peduncle from that experience. Mind-bogglingly, based on our team's scar coding analysis, we know that wasn't Calvin's first entanglement—that occurred even before she arrived in the Bay of Fundy as an 8-month-old! We know that she's been through at least four other entanglement events as well. Unfortunately Calvin's multiple entanglements don't make her an anomaly, as 59% of the population have also been entangled more than once.
Fluking in the Bay of Fundy reveals entanglement scars on Calvin's peduncle.
Happier news arrived in December 2004 when Calvin became a mother for the first time (of course her calf was named Hobbes!) and she brought her calf to the Bay of Fundy, just as her mother had done 13 years earlier. She birthed her second calf in 2009, and perhaps she will give birth to her third calf this winter! Despite the sad circumstances in her life, she offers hope for the future of this species.
Calvin and her first calf in February, 2005.
How has our research benefited from studying Calvin, and how has Calvin benefited from our research? Our scientists were part of the team that necropsied Delilah to discover how she died, which later helped illustrate the troubling issue of ship strikes and influenced efforts to move the shipping lanes in the Bay of Fundy. Philip, Marilyn and Scott published a paper on right whale weaning age (which included Calvin's case), and expanded what the scientific community knew about the age a calf could successfully wean. Scarring analysis work teaches us that Calvin has been entangled six times, which opens our eyes to this growing problem, and our Catalog work reveals that she is due to have another calf, which gives us something to look forward to.
Please consider sponsoring Calvin! Your sponsorship donation directly funds our program and helps us advance our research so we can aid conservation efforts. Thank you!