Known to whale-watchers by her signature speckled tail, Salt the “iconic” humpback whale has just made an appearance off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard.
“This past Monday, our aerial survey team spotted Salt, one of the most recognizable humpback whales in New England waters!” the New England Aquarium announced Aug. 16.
Salt has attained celebrity status in Stellwagen Bank, an area off the coast of Massachusetts, according to the Center for Coastal Studies. The center says many refer to Salt as the “Grande Dame.”
The New England Aquarium posted photos of Salt and others performing a hunting technique called bubble-net feeding. This complex strategy involves a group of whales swimming in a circle while blowing bubbles to push fish toward the surface, where they can feed on them, according to the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation.
“The easiest and most effective way to identify humpback whales is by looking at the underside of their tails, which means it’s hard for our aerial team to identify humpbacks from the sky,” the aquarium said.
But Salt is easy to pick out from the crowd, they said.
Researchers have studied Salt and other humpback whales in the area since she was first sighted in the 1970s. This makes her one of the “oldest known humpbacks anywhere,” according to the Ocean Alliance.
“As just one example, genetic samples that we collected from Salt and her calves in the early 1990s proved for the first time that female humpbacks are promiscuous (their calves do not have the same fathers),” according to the Center for Coastal studies.
She has given birth to 16 calves, researchers with the aquarium say.
Salt fans were excited to hear about her recent sighting.
“I’ve been waiting all summer to hear about Salt!” one person commented on Facebook. “I’m so excited to see her safe and well!”
Many others said they spotted Salt with one of her many calves throughout the years.
“I first saw Salt in the mid 80’s. So happy she is still swimming,” another person wrote.
Someone posted a GIF that just said “Queen.”
“It was a rare treat for our survey team to see this iconic female humpback,” the aquarium said in a release.