The Science behind WhaleTime

What happens behind the scenes to the Humpback Whale Tail images that you send into WhaleTime?

Ever wondered what happens behind the scenes to the images that you post onto WhaleTime? Who on earth sits and looks at them and lets you know at the end of the day which whale it was you spotted and where else it’s been spotted, and how they do this?

Well, it in fact a team of people who do this using a software which allows us to make matches between existing images and the ones that you post, based on the colouration and edge pattern of the tail. The colour pattern on a humpback whales tail, place it into 1 of 5 categories, ranging from mostly white to mostly black (see below).



Basically, the program we use puts the image you post side by side with a catalogue of existing images which fall into the same colour category. This allows the team behind the computer to manually decide whether the images match or not. When an image matches then, using the date and GPS co-ordinates or the general location co-ordinates, we can say where and when else that particular whale was spotted!




E.g. of a category 1 (Pumpkin) image owned by Vic Cockcroft (copyright)                              E.g. of a category 5 image owned by Vic Cockcroft (copyright)



The very best way to get whale tail images is to go whale watching with one of a number of boat based whale watching companies which operate along our coastline (see “Book a Tour” on the WhaleTime website for details on which companies operate along the KZN coastline)

The WhaleTime website will also allow you to be acknowledged for your contribution to the website! – even more reason to get involved!

Happy snapping!


By Summer Newton