The fin whale is a common whale throughout the northwest Atlantic. In
Newfoundland and Labrador, fin whales can be seen near shore and
offshore from early spring until late fall. In winter they generally migrate
south as far as Florida. Fin whales sometimes become entrapped in ice
around Newfoundland waters.
Underwater view of fin whale -- movie I (978K).
Fin whale with Newfoundland's sea shore in the
background -- movie II (348K).
Fin whales mate in winter, when they are in warm waters. After a
gestation period of about a year, a 6 m calf weighing 2 tons is born. The calf
will nurse for 7 months, at which point it will be about 11 m long. Fin
whales become mature at around 10 years of age, and may grow up to 18-
23 m long, weighing 40-50 tons. Fin whales calve about once every three
years and may live to be 100 years old.
Fin whales are extremely fast swimmers, with speeds in excess of 20 km/
hour. A fin whale tagged in Iceland covered 3,000 km in 1O days! They are
unique among whales in that they are asymmetrically coloured: the left side
of the head and baleen are dark, while the right side of the head and baleen
are white. Fin whales have been observed to swim toward their prey (krill
and small fish), roll onto their right sides, pivot in a tight turn, then open
their mouths. Such a manoeuvre may allow the whale to use the white side
of its head to scare and concentrate its prey before engulfing it.
Little is known about the social organization of these whales. They
sometimes travel in groups, and are known to make extremely loud, low-
frequency sounds, which may be used for communication.