A nine-year old female grey whale named Varavara has set the new world mammal migration record by traveling almost 14,000 miles in her travel starting off Russia and ending up in Mexico six months later.
The now famous whale actually swam 13,987 miles during her travel to set the mammal migration record, which was being tracked as part of a way to learn more about some of the grey whales that like to live in the northwestern waters of the Pacific Ocean close to Russia. Most grey whales live near the California coast in the US, and the researchers believe that these two grey whale populations almost never meet each other.
Varavara Tagged to Track Mammal Migration Record
Varavara the grey whale was first tagged with satellite capable tags by scientists from Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute. In fact, Varavara had already begun to set some travel records during the first part of her trek she traveled from her Arctic feeding grounds near Sakhalin Island, Russia, to the breeding areas on Mexico’s Cabo San Lucas coastal area.
Scientists think that grey whale babies learn how to get from their home to the migration areas from their mothers and use sonar waves and costal landmarks to navigate.
This first part of the grey whale migration trek was 2,000 miles longer than any other recorded transoceanic swim by any mammal. Then, during the female grey whale’s trip back home during her mammal migration record-setting trek, she made some friends and swam along with two other grey whales: 13-year old male, Flex and 6-year old female, Agent.
Whale’s Record Setting Trek Raises Questions
Before Varavara’s recording setting travel, the researchers thought this population of grey whales swam in a loop to get from the Arctic to their final destination in the South China Sea. However, that isn’t how she made her mammal migration record setting travel, instead she went across the Bering Sea, completely open water, not going near land for any sort of landmarks or other references.
This showed that the two populations of grey whales may intermix with each other and may make it nearly impossible to know which ones are from which area. In fact, Varavara was seen swimming near some of the eastern grey whale packs off the Oregon coast and visited some of the known breeding areas of these grey whales.
In the past, it was thought that the Western grey whales were near extinct, but a small herd was found in Russia in the 1970s and has been monitored ever since. Varavara is one of these Russian whales. Now, scientists may do some genetic testing to see how closely the two groups are related after the information gathered from Varavara’s mammal migration record setting adventure.
Crossing the ocean is no small feat, even for a blue whale. For a video on the stunning power of ocean’s currents, watch this capturing of Japan after an ocean-borne tsunami hits: