• Photo by Rantje Allen

  • Photo by William Tan

  • Photo by Rantje Allen

  • Photo by William Tan

  • Photo by Rantje Allen

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Pilot Whale Beaches in Gorontalo

A pilot whale beached itself close to Olele Marine Park in Gorontalo on 3 January 2020.

Too Big to Help

A local fisherman named Iwan Adam discovered the large pilot whale on the beach near his house in Tolotio Village. The time was 0530 hours. According to Iwan, the cetacean was still breathing and alive when he found it. So, he called nine friends to discuss options for saving the whale. Unfortunately, the discovery coincided with low tide.  Also, the pilot whale weighed almost two tons. Dragging the whale over the rocks and coral proved impossible, given the conditions. Although they poured water on it to keep it cool, the whale died twenty minutes later and before the tide rose again.

pilot whale beached
Short-finned pilot whale beached in Gorontalo

Government officials arrived to assess the situation. According to their notes, the whale measured 482 centimetres long. Its girth was 220 centimetres. Moreover, it was male. In order to avoid contamination, the villagers buried the carcass.

Sightings of Pilot Whales in Gorontalo

Miguel’s Diving staff have observed pilot whales on other occasions. Although these cetaceans are famous for traveling in pods, we have only observed single pilot whales near diving areas. Pods of pilot whales occasionally pass Gorontalo fishermen, who are handlining yellowfin tuna farther from shore. The dorsal fin of a pilot whale tends to fold back a bit. Thus, with this observation, visual identification is possible.

The Short-Finned Pilot Whale

dead whale
Distinctive head, mouth and fins of a pilot whale

The unfortunate whale that beached itself was a Short-finned Pilot Whale. Globicephala macrorhynchus is its scientific name. Distinguishing features include a rounded, bulbous head. Its fins are set forward on its body and point sharply back. The mouth slants upward. Mostly, its color is uniformly black. Some individuals exhibit a diagonal stripe from eye to dorsal fin and a cape. Sometimes, a lighter belly patch is visible. The body is slender but robust. In death all color will be lost.

The Short-finned Pilot Whale is among a group of marine life called blackfish. These cetaceans are mostly jet black in color. The Long-finned Pilot Whale is not found in our area, as it prefers the cold waters of the northern and southern oceans. In Gorontalo, Miguel’s Diving staff have seen other blackfish species. This includes Pygmy Killer Whale, Melon-Headed Whale and False Killer Whale. Surprisingly, the most common blackfish we see are Killer Whales or Orca.

Behavioral Characteristics

Short-finned Pilot Whales usually travels in pods but rarely breaches. Feeding mostly at night, they love deep-sea squid. These whales have no fixed migration routes, but they often follow squid spawning. Also, they prefer the edges of continental shelves and deep underwater canyons. This perfectly describes the marine substrate along the southern shores of Gorontalo in Tomini Bay.

For your chance to see one of Gorontalo’s blackfish, please book your dive trip with us.  

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