Boston.com has reported that scientists have used a tourist’s image of a whale fluke, posted onto Flickr, to match with pictures taken by scientists of the same whale to show that it made an unprecedented 6,000 mile journey from Brazil to Madagascar. Whale number 1363 in the Antarctic Humpback Whale Catalog was first spotted by scientists off the coast of Brazil in August 1999, swimming with another whale for an hour. The scientists took skin samples and did genetic analysis, determining that both whales were female.
Skipping on two years, Freddy Johansen, a Norwegian tourist on a whale watching cruise, took a photo of the same whale’s flukes as it swam with two other whales off the east coast of Madagascar and then uploaded it onto Flickr some while later in 2009. Gale McCullogh, liaison to Flickr for the Allied Whale research group at the College of the Atlantic, Maine, matched the two images and was hence able to track the whales movements. McCullogh said:
“This to me is just an incredibly exciting way of reminding people they are our whales — they’re not the biologist’s whales.’’