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Lobtailing, Spyhopping and Breaching in Gabon

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The sad story this week of a stranded humpback whale in Port Gentil, Gabon reminded me of encounters with these whales in the Baie du Cap Lopez (I wrote the following short account in 1997).
Humpback whales are regular dry season visitors to the coastal waters of Gabon. They are the most acrobatic of whales and have been said to have the most complex vocalisations of any animals after ourselves.
In 1987, after an oceanography conference in Woods Hole, I went looking for Humpbacks off Cape Cod. Their scientific name, Megaptera novaeangliae (big-winged New Englander) refers to their giant pectoral fins and common occurrence offshore Massachusetts and Maine. So, It was the right place to be looking. That trip was no disappointment, with several Northern Right Whales and a pair of Fin Whales (the second largest creatures on the planet, over 20m long) putting in appearances. Not a single Humpback showed, however.


13/7/97. Baie du Cap Lopez. This is why they’re called Humpbacks.
Since then I h…