Anders Bekeken

100 Places To Remember: Valdés Peninsula, Argentina

Geschreven op 1-3-2010 - Erik van Erne. Geplaatst in Natuur Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

100places to rememberHave Gone to Patagonia. When the British journalist Bruce Chatwin quit his job with the Sunday Times in London to pursue a writing career that covered a wide range of travel writing, essays and fiction, he famously sent his employers a telegram saying Have gone to Patagonia.

If the Southern Right Whale could speak, it might say exactly the same thing. Every year, during the South American winter, thousands of these huge mammals up to 18 metres long and weighing up to 130 tons migrate from their feeding grounds in the waters of the Southern Ocean close to Antarctica, to breed in the Valdés Peninsula of Argentine Patagonia.

Both sites are ideal for their purpose. In the Southern Ocean, the whales feed on the abundant krill small, shrimp-like crustaceans that live in the cold waters. At the Valdés Peninsular, they mate, calve and raise their offspring in the sheltered lagoons of the Nuevo and San José Gulfs.

The whales share this breeding ground with large colonies of sea lions and elephant seals. They will often cavort with their calves as little as 200 metres from land, attracting thousands of spectators from all over the world. To the delight of their audiences, they teach their calves a piece of behaviour that is unique to the Southern Right Whale known as sailing using their elevated flukes to catch the wind and glide more easily across the ocean.

Krill, the Southern Right Whales main source of food, live on algae. Higher sea temperatures and melting sea ice around the Antarctic will decimate the algae and krill alike, posing a severe threat to the survival of the whales.

In years when the Antarctic summer has been warm, a decline has been noted in the number of calves born. Miscarriages induced by lack of food are believed to be the cause.

Research shows that young whales learn from their mothers exactly where in the immense ocean to look for food, and that this knowledge has been passed down for generations. If the food vanishes from their current feeding grounds, it will be very difficult for them to move elsewhere.

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