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A humpback whale spotted in Alaska on July 12, top. A photograph of what researchers consider to be the same whale, known as “Old Timer,” spotted in August 1972, bottom. Credit Jim Nahmens/Nature’s Spirit Photography; Charles Jurasz

Jan Straley is a professor of biology and whale researcher at the University of Alaska Southeast. She came into the studio to talk about an extraordinary whale sighting this summer off Cape Fenshaw in Frederick Sound.

On Sunday, July 12, 2015 a research team sighted a whale, called “Old Timer,” that was first photographed by whale research pioneer Charles Jurasz in Lynn Canal in 1972. After 44 years, the moment broke the record for the longest re-sighting of any individually identified humpback whale in the world.

Straley talks about the efforts of the Park Service to monitor whales and explains why whale re-sightings are significant to researchers. Long re-sightings, especially of older females, can provide data about ocean conditions. When females return with calves, those are good years. When they do not return or return without calves, those are bad years. These re-sightings help researches discern ocean cycles over long periods of time.

Straley also talks about threats to humpback whales, amid a massive rebound in population numbers. In April, NOAA proposed to delist a group of whales, to which Old Timer belongs, from “endangered” of becoming extinct.