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Rune  HWC# 0261

Rune

Rune is a very beautiful, incredibly girthy animal.  There is a good reason for her girthiness, she is the mother of at least six calves (See Rune's Family Tree).  Rune was first seen in 1980.  She was an adult at that time so there is a good chance that she has even more calves.

Rune is frequently seen throughout the season.  She has returned to this area about every year since her first sighting.  In 1996, Rune marked the return of concentrations of humpbacks to Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.  Three to four years prior, humpbacks were a little scarce on the bank.  During this time we saw an increase in fin and minke whales to this area.  

It is the food chain that dictates the movement of animals.  The lean years for humpback sightings had more of the medium-sized fish, such as herring and mackerel.  Humpbacks seem to prefer sand lance, a small, eel-like bait fish.  In 1996, naturalists finally saw some concentrations of humpbacks feeding near the Peaked Hill buoy (the back side of Cape Cod).  The whales stayed around this area until July, when they finally moved back to Stellwagen Bank.  Rune was one of the first humpbacks to make this return.

The name Rune comes from the Gothic word 'runa' meaning "something secret, a mystery."  The Germanic peoples, including the Norse, developed the Runes.  These are stones inscribed with the letters from an ancient alphabet.  They were sometimes used as amulets or sacred instruments for protection.

 Rune has several distinctive features that help identify her.  First, her feeding technique.  When she is actively feeding, she usually slaps her chin on the surface of the water, then does the same with her tail and disappears for a few minutes.  She soon appears with her mouth wide open and full of food.  This technique, while unusual, is not unique to Rune and you cannot make a positive identification from this behavior alone.  

 Second clue to Rune identification is her dorsal fin.  She has a regular sized and shaped dorsal, however she has white markings similar to the "rune symbols" on both sides, more so on the left.

Third,  she has a very noticeable scar on her back.  This is located half-way between her blowhole and dorsal fin.  This could have been caused by an encounter with a small boat or with a predator, such as an orca.

 Finally, the key to positively identifying Rune is her fluke.  There are a few things that stick out:  1)  two white dots in the middle of the fluke and 2)  three black lines in the tip on the right fluke.  These could also possibly have been made many years ago during an orca attack.

 

Rune's Family Tree

Rune- F ---
fs: 1980

Alphorn- M
yob: 1983

K- F
yob: 1985
yod: 1987

Nine
yob: 1989

Tripod
yob: 1992

Swerve
yob: 1995

Menace
yob: 1997

 

NOTE:  In 1987, Rune's two-year-old daughter, K, was one of many whales that died late in the season.  It is suspected that the whales fed on mackerel that had been feeding on tiny red tide organisms called Saxitoxin.  It is undetermined exactly how many animals died that year. The bodies of at least 14 humpbacks were found.

 

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