May 12th, 2010
08:24 PM ET

Gray whale gets lost

A gray whale's appearance last weekend off the coast of Israel has left scientists blubbering.

"We were shocked," said Oz Goffman, an expert in marine biology and animal behavior with the Marine Mammal Research and Assistance Center at Haifa University. "They are not animals that we are supposed to see in our area."

Video showed the adult mammal swimming leisurely in waters that have not seen such a display since the 1700s or 1800s, experts said.

The lone animal appears to have migrated across the Pacific and into the Mediterranean, said Goffman, who observed the animal for three hours as it swam about 1.5 miles nautical miles from the shore.

"We followed the whale," he said. "It was swimming very relaxed, diving."

Asked if the sighting could portend a gray whale return to the area, which was picked clean of the mammal by whalers more than 200 years ago, he said, "It's possible."

"It's really strange," said Nancy Black, a marine biologist with the Monterey Bay Whale Watch in California who used Google Earth to try to figure out how it reached the shores off Israel. "Once in a while, animals get lost and get off their normal track."

She said the sighting could be related to changing climatic conditions along the Northwest Passage, the Arctic sea route between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans that is usually covered with ice. "Now, the passage seems to be open more often," she said.

Based on the photos and videos, the mammal is about 20 tons, though they can grow to 45 feet and 45 tons, she said.

Nearly all of the world's 20,000 gray whales live in the northeastern Pacific and usually migrate south to Mexico in the fall and then back north in the summer, she said. About 100 of them live in the western Pacific.

Instead of migrating south, as most of the whales do, this one appears to have gone from the Bering Sea through the Northwest Passage, she said.

The animals tend to gorge in the summer on amphipods, crustaceans about 1/4-inch long that live in the mud, then fast the rest of the year, she said. But, she said, "they can also be opportunistic," feeding on krill too.

The animals also tend to be social, gathering together to mate and socialize in Mexico in the winter. "He's gonna be lonely," she said. She added that she could not discern the animal's gender from the images.

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Filed under: Animals • Israel • Whales
soundoff (72 Responses)
  1. Peace In The Middle East

    Ah that was a good one Israel is going to occupy the whale and build settlements one it! that made me laugh!.........but god it’s so true!!! They probably would do it. They are thinking of a plan right now to provoke the whale, sneaky Zionist! They get away with everything

    May 13, 2010 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mary

    Maybe it's O'bama disguised as a whale.

    May 13, 2010 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Gianni

    I think the Palestinian people attached bombs to the whale and where expecting it to reach the Israeli beach..(they attached bombs to everything they can right) .... after all they probably think that the whale belongs to they think the land belongs to them... I mean how many arabs nations around and they want..just the little piece of land that the jews have.

    May 13, 2010 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Nana

    why do u guys have to bring religion into a topic that has NOTHING to do with Isa or Hamas or Jonah?please,write coments about questions like"How long is this whale going to be there?"or"Is the whale going to die?"or "Where is the whale heading to?"
    Listen,im just 13 years old and im a christian,but why does this topic have coments about Isa fighting with the Dajjal?So,DONT CHANGE THE SUBJECT!Thank u.

    May 13, 2010 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Kev

    bad news ladies and gentlemen, israel thought the whale was tryin to break through its blockade and rammed the whale to death with a patrol boat

    May 13, 2010 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Barry77

    Perhaps he is looking for the moderate Muslims we keep hearing about but can never actually find.

    May 13, 2010 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Middle East

    The Zionist terroist Isreal just bombed the whale from an F-14 fighter jet! Isreal has just declared victory over the whale! Matzi balls for everyone!

    May 13, 2010 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
  8. ghetreal

    Please folks, if you're going to bash a country, at least have the intelligence to spell it correctly: ISRAEL

    May 14, 2010 at 12:19 am | Report abuse |
  9. Joe

    Nope. The whale came back and spit off Johah back to Israel.

    May 14, 2010 at 5:51 am | Report abuse |
  10. Chaya

    It's the descendant of a whale that had lived in the waters off of Israel two hundred years ago – it has come back – making Aliyah!!

    May 14, 2010 at 6:45 am | Report abuse |
  11. pete

    Ah that was a good one Israel is going to occupy the whale and build settlements one it!

    then the whale should take the ungrateful leaches to the bottom of the ocean..Israel ticks on the worlds dikkk

    May 14, 2010 at 7:21 am | Report abuse |
  12. RuSrious

    Here are some statistics that compare the Jewish and Muslim world populations.

    Comparative Statistics

    % Jews in pop
    % Muslims in pop
    % world Jews
    % world Muslims






    S. America


    Seriously now...just look at these simple numbers and leave Israel alone with its whopping land mass of 8000 sq...(fyi Israel could fit into Florida 8 times over...)
    All the violence in the middle east might never have happened if ALL the Arab states didn't try to invade Israel when it was formed. Arab countries have themselves to blame for the wars in the Middle East and anyone saying this is not tru please by all means find any passage in the Torah that states we sxhould kill or convert anyone who isn't Jewish or maybe you can just look at history and see at no point whatsoever did Israel attach an Arab state...We have been on the Defense either frmo armies invading or Rockets being lobbed at us. Deal with it we are here to stay and so is our country in it's entirety.

    May 14, 2010 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
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