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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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