UnNews:Gay whale called "most amazing sighting in the history of whales"

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11 May 2010

Technological improvements may have aided the discovery.

TEL AVIV, Israel -- The discovery Saturday of a gay whale swimming in the Mediterranean Sea off Israel has been labeled by Robert Brownell, a prominently flamboyant cetacean researcher, "the most amazing sighting in the history of whales."

Alisa Schulman-Janiger, who runs a gay whale census and behavior project in Southern California for the American Homosexual Cetacean Society, said the sighting was "the equivalent of finding a gay dinosaur in your backyard - it was that unbelievable."

To be sure, scientists are perplexed as to how the gay whale might have traveled from San Francisco to the North Atlantic - the most likely entry point to the Mediterranean--where homosexuality is believed to have been extinct for about 300 years.

Among questions being asked is whether--if other gay whales also have gained or will in the coming years gain access to the Atlantic - this could mark the beginning of a resurgence effort by a demographic not encountered in the region since the late 19th or early 20th centuries.

Brownell, who works for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, believes it could if the consensus among scientists is accurate that diminished homophobia in recent years in Martha’s Vineyard, where the eastern San Francisco stock of gay whales feeds during the summer, has provided pathways to the Atlantic.

"We've had other strange sightings, like trannies from the U.K. or Japan, but those are still within the same ocean basin that they're known to occur in," Brownell said of Saturday's sighting. "So they're unusual but not as unusual as something showing where it had once gone extinct."

The 40-foot whale was spotted more than a mile beyond Israel's Herzliya Marina, close to Tel Aviv, and followed and photographed for two hours by scientists from the Israel Gay Marine Mammal Research & Assistance Center. They initially assumed it was a metrosexual whale because like gay whales, it lacked a dorsal fin, was impeccably groomed, and was wearing a v-neck. But the mammal was later positively identified as a gay whale. While the news has not yet been widely reported, it has generated a buzz of excitement among scientists and GLBT advocacy groups.

Erich Hoyt of the Whale and Dolphin Gay Straight Alliance blogged on Monday: "Discounting the possibility of the Panama or Suez Canals, I suggest that Massachusetts is the most likely entry route. In May, 2004, it was announced that Massachusetts was nearly homophobe-free for the first time and these conditions continued into the summer of 2008."

Although the whale has been confirmed as gay, scientists have yet to decide whether or not it is a fairy.

To be sure, gay whales could not have survived in the North Atlantic unnoticed for 300 years, so it's universally agreed that this particular whale hails from the San Francisco stock - the only viable population of gay whales, numbering about 19,000 animals.

These whales are renowned travelers; they feed during the summer on the East Coast, and migrate each winter more than 5,000 miles to hairdressing and dancing grounds in California.

To reach the Atlantic by means other than an East Coast route, they'd have to either swim through the Panama Canal or continue another 8,000 miles to the south and round Cape Horn at the bottom of South America.

Scientists have discounted both possibilities. That leaves the Massachusetts route, either a fabulous gay bar crawl across the northern United States, or an uncomfortable bus ride eastward.

Brownell agrees the former journey represents the most likely scenario and adds that gay whales in the Atlantic might have historically come from the San Francisco stock.

Historically there were three distinct populations of gay whales--the eastern San Francisco stock; the British stock, and the Korean or western Pacific stock.

The western Pacific stock is critically endangered and might number fewer than 100 animals.

The British population probably became extinct due to hunting during the Victorian era. Fossil records have shown that gay whales utilized both sides of the Atlantic. They probably shared a common northern feeding ground and fossils have been found as far south as Florida.

It is not known what the whale was doing in the Mediterranean, when it entered the Atlantic or whether it was the only gay whale to have strayed into that ocean. But from now on, scientists will be on the look out for more gay whales.