On July 23, the whale watchers from Elding Adventure at Sea saw a North Atlantic right whale northwest off Reykjavik, Iceland. Photographs taken by Captain Guðlaugur Ottesen Karlsson allowed members of our right whale research team to identify the whale as Mogul (Catalog #3845)—a 10 year old male born to Slalom (#1245) in 2008.

Mogul skim feeing west of Reykjavik, Iceland on July 23, 2018.
Mogul skim feeing west of Reykjavik Iceland on July 23, 2018. Photo courtesy of Guðlaugur Ottesen Karlsson, Elding Adventure at Sea.
Mogul diving with the Icelandic coast in the back ground.
Mogul diving with the Icelandic coast in the back ground. Photo courtesy of Guðlaugur Ottesen Karlsson, Elding Adventure at Sea.

Mogul skim-feeding west of Reykjavik, Iceland (left) and diving with the Icelandic coast in the background (right). Photos courtesy:  Guðlaugur Ottesen Karlsson, Elding Adventure at Sea.

There have only been three different whales identified off Iceland in the last 30 years. Two of them were reproductive females, #1412 and #1710, (though neither have been seen with a calf in Iceland). The third is a whale of unknown sex and age—#2260. All three have some long gaps in their sighting histories, the longest being 15 years. Given their sparse sighting histories, it is not too surprising that they are traveling to distant habitats.

Pictures of these whales, along with their sighting histories, can be seen on the Right Whale Catalog website.

Mogul's profile in the North Atlantic Right Whale Catalog.
Mogul's profile in the North Atlantic Right Whale Catalog.

Mogul, however, does not fit the profile of the other Iceland whales at all. His mom is seen regularly and frequently in the main habitats along the eastern seaboard of the U.S. and Canada, and Mogul has been seen many times each and every year since his birth in 2008, and almost always near the coast. Mogul has at least two brothers and two sisters. His sister Insignia (Catalog #2645) is the only sibling to have offspring of her own. Insignia has had four calves so far- making Mogul an uncle many times over.

Mogul the Right Whale feeding off Massachusetts, 2018.
Mogul feeding off Marshfield, MA on April 21, 2018. Photo courtesy of NOAA/NEFSC, NOAA Permit #17355.

Not all the 2018 data have been contributed to the Catalog yet, but we know that the Northeast Fisheries Science Center saw Mogul skim feeding off Marshfield, MA on April 21, 2018. That is the most recent sighting we know of. Right whales have had to change where they go to feed in recent years in response to a rapidly changing ocean. It will be very interesting to see if other right whales are seen in Iceland in the coming days and weeks.