The world’s biggest animal is swimming just off New York City’s shores.
A total of six whale species have been spotted from Long Island to New York Harbor, scientists announced yesterday.
Whales have been known to surface near New York, but it wasn’t until researchers submerged sound recorders off Long Island in 2008 that they found out how many and how often whales are found just off Lower Manhattan.
“I was completely shocked,” said Christopher Clark, director of the Bioacoustics Research Program at Cornell, who studies whale sounds. “Off New York, we’ve found that we have some of the greatest animals on earth.”
Centuries ago, Long Islanders hunted whales for oil, Clark said, and in the 19th century, they swam underneath what’s now the George Washington Bridge. Today, Clark said, New Yorkers could stand on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and look down on a present-day active whale habitat.
Fin whales are the most predominant in the area, he said, but blue whales and right whales have also passed through New York waters. A community of fin whales has made the shoreline near Long Island their home, said Clark.
Scientists tracked the guttural, squealing sounds of whales as they passed sensors fanning out from Jones Beach.
One blue whale swam steadily past Long Island about 60 miles from the shore.
“The whale was closer than I ever expected,” Clark said.
Follow Alison Bowen on Twitter @AlisonatMetro.