The NNHWC contains photographs of nearly 650 different humpback whales photographed in north Norwegian waters from 2002 to present. In this online catalogue, the best available photo of each individual whale has been picked out for display and each whale has been assigned a unique identification number which is displayed next to the photo.
To be able to search the catalogue, each fluke has been coded based on its various characteristics and natural markings (for example, fluke-colour, type of scarring etc.), and while browsing the images to look for your whale you can apply different filters to narrow down the hit-list of a search. The available filters do not attempt to follow any scientific standard but have simply been created to maximize the ease of use and are all subjective.
For example, one of the filters allows you to filter out all the whales with scarring on the left side of the fluke. Used alone, this filter will not be very helpful as there is almost always some scarring over the entire fluke but the filter will narrow down your search to those whales with major/obvious scarring, mainly on the left side. By combining several filters and different input criteria, the search engine quickly becomes a more powerful tool and by adding more characteristics from the fluke it becomes easier to find “your” whale and be able to make a match.
After you have selected your input criteria, the database brings up a subset of all flukes in the database that matched the criteria. New combinations of filters can all the time be applied and will further aid in the matching process. The last step of actually making a match (to find out which whale you have observed) must always be done by comparing your fluke with the remaining flukes in the hit-list manually. Keep in mind that you may have photographed a whale that is not yet in the database - perhaps even a whale that no one else have ever photographed.
The natural markings of the flukes remain remarkably unaltered over time, but the whales may acquire new additional scars or injuries over time. The NNHWC will be continually updated as better photographs become available or as “new” individuals are identified.
Examples of flukes showing the different characteristics and natural markings that can help you to narrow a search are shown next to the filters.
Type: The most basic grouping (divided into five different types). Type 1 refers to flukes that are nearly all white while type 5 refers to almost completely black flukes. For intermediate types, see the drawings next to the filter.
Scar type: Are the major scars (any linear mark or distinctive mark of any kind) that are present on the fluke mainly in the form of white or black lines (or both)?
Scar position: Are the major scars that are present on the fluke to be found on the left fluke, the right fluke or both flukes?
Dots/rings presence: Flukes often have circular marks from e.g. barnacles that have fallen off. Do the fluke have mainly dots (filled circular marks, either black or white) or rings (open circular marks, either black with a white center or white with a black center).
Dots/rings position: Are the dots and rings found mainly on the left fluke, mainly on the right fluke or on both flukes?
Barnacles: Presence or not of barnacles anywhere on the fluke.
Barnacles position: Is the position of the barnacles mainly found on the fluke tips, on the underside (ventral side) of the fluke, or on both?
Orca bites: Presence or not of often parallel linear marks, most likely caused by predator (orca) bites.
White windows: Presence or not of well-defined areas of white “windows” inside areas of black pigmentation on the fluke?
Serious damage: Presence or not of serious damage to the fluke such as the fluke having a sector missing or injuries from encounters with fishing gear (nets, ropes) or boats (propeller scars) etc.
Fluke pattern: Is the pigmentation mainly black and white or does the fluke have an overall mottled, more greyish, pigmentation?
Notch shape: The area where the left and the right fluke meet at the middle is called the notch. Is the notch V-shaped or U-shaped (curved)?
Unbroken black central bar: Applies mainly to flukes of type 1 or 2. Is there a black bar stretching from the notch to the “bottom” of the fluke (unbroken black central bar) or is there a gap in the black central bar?
Fireworks: A set of lines/scars (often parallel) that seems to emerge from the area around the notch like fireworks.
Sunglass Factor: The “jizz” of a fluke. Jizz is a term originally used by birders to describe the overall impression or appearance of a bird but sometimes we find that jizz (in terms of how interesting or special a fluke looks) useful in finding a match. Does the fluke look boring and plain? or somewhat more exciting with the odd scar giving it a bit devil-may-care look? Or is it simply so cool that you just know that this is a fluke most likely to do anything?