A New Regular to the Canyon: Help Us With A Name!

Here at Whale Watch Kaikoura we’ve noticed a new Sperm whale popping up on our sighting sheets along with our locals, and it seems as though he’s just as fond as the food here as our residents! HL50 is his identifying number, used by marine scientists and researchers at the University of Otago to recognise and categorise him amongst a photo ID catalogue of Sperm Whales sighted in Kaikōura over the last 27 years. But we’re looking at giving him a name, something that reflects his personality as well as our local Iwi’s connection to these enchanting mammals.

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HL50 (Image: Marta Guerra)

Identified as HL50, this Sperm whale has quickly risen the ranks amongst our Sea Crew and garnering favouritism over other popular local Sperm whales we regularly see on our whale watching tours. He’s even competing against our top guns, Tutu and Tiaki, of which we have been seeing for over 20 years.

In December we saw him do some spectacular displays of breaching, propelling his entire 14.6 metre body out of the water multiple times! Such a behaviour is typical of the Humpback whale species who are known for their spectacular displays of acrobatics but less common for Sperm whales. It is a rare and beautiful sight to see a Sperm whale manage such a feet and a behaviour we don’t see often. During that same week we also saw him tail slapping on the water’s surface for a good 10 minutes on a hot summers day. Itching his skin and cooling himself down perhaps?

HL50 (Image: Annika Dahlberg)

Records show that we’ve been seeing him in Kaikōura since as early as 2005, with the last few years only seeing him occasionally – until he decided to spend a lot more time here both last Summer and this Summer. He has proven to be quite territorial of the Kaikōura Canyon, protecting his feeding ground from not only other smaller mammals getting too close for comfort, but also other Sperm whales. One of our tours witnessed him chase away a transient bull Sperm whale much the same size as himself to defend his hunting territory.

What makes him so distinguishable are the markings on his fluke, with a very noticeable small hole on the left hand side. The fluke of each Sperm whale, visible as the whale dives deep down to forage for food, is as unique as a human’s fingerprint. By photographing the fluke an individual can be identified by their unique combination of scallops, nicks, cuts and holes along the trailing edge of their tail.

HL50 (Image: Marta Guerra)

So, we now need your help! Can you think of a suitable name for this assertive male Sperm whale? Facebook, direct message or Tweet us with your suggestions! For some more info on how Sperm whales have earnt their names in the past, find out here.

HL50 (Image: Heleen Middel)

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