Grey whale seen in Namibia travelled 27,000km in new world record

Posted by Anita Froneman on 11 June 2021

A 12-metre-long grey whale that was spotted off the coast of Walvis Bay in Namibia in 2013, has now been confirmed to hold the record for the longest whale migration ever recorded. Researchers recently confirmed the whale’s birthplace is the North Pacific Ocean.

Credit: Stellenbosch University

Teams from Durham University in the United Kingdom and Stellenbosch University in South Africa published their findings in Biology Letters on June 9.

This was also the first-ever sighting of the species in the Southern Hemisphere. Researchers determined the whale had travelled an astounding distance of more than 20,000km to reach Namibia and estimated that the total distance is likely close to 27,000km.

Credit: Stellenbosch University

The whale is believed to originate from a population whose home is the waters off eastern Russia, reports Nature. The animal would likely have journeyed through the Canadian Arctic, or alternatively, could have made its way around South America’s southern tip.

Researchers are unsure of whether the whale swam around Canada or Argentina.


The whale’s total distance roughly equates to swimming halfway around the world.

Professor Rus Hoelzel, an evolutionary biologist from Durham University and main author, said the following about the challenges the teams faced in trying to determine the whale’s origin. ‘This unequivocally identified his birthplace as the North Pacific. What we don’t know, however, is whether this remarkable long migration is just accidental vagrancy, or whether its presence in the Atlantic represents a foraging excursion, permitted by passage through the Arctic pack ice.

‘We believe the most likely travel route for the Namibian whale was via the Arctic, a passage only made possible due to the receding ice flows attributed to climate change in recent years, the authors conclude.

Picture: Wikimedia Commons

yoast-primary -
tcat - Travel news
tcat_slug - travel-news
tcat2 -
tcat2_slug -
tcat_final -