A theory for the hydrodynamics of whale flukeprints

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Citation

Levy, R., Uminsky, D., Park, A., & Calambokidis, J. (2011). A theory for the hydrodynamic origin of whale flukeprints. International Journal of Non-Linear Mechanics, 4(46), 616-626.

Abstract

Whale flukeprints are an often observed, but poorly understood, phenomenon. Used bywhale researchers to locate whales, flukeprints refer to a strikingly smooth oval-shaped water patch which forms behind a swimming or diving whale on the surface of the ocean and persists up to several minutes. In this paper we provide a description of hydrodynamic theory and related experiments explaining the creation and evolution of these ‘‘whale footprints.’’ The theory explains that the motion of the fluke provides a mechanism for shedding of vortex rings which subsequently creates a breakwater that damps the short wavelength capillary waves. The theory also suggests that the role of natural surfactants are of secondary importance in the early formation of these prints.

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