The Humpback Whales‘ acrobatics are such a fantastic spectacle to witness as you sail along and so very special from your own boat. Our close sightings at Broughton Island and then along the coast past Forster-Tuncarry and Seal Rocks with small groups of 3 or 4 putting amazing displays for us, have been a delight, deserving of another post.
We have witnessed a number of whale behaviours:
- The Blow – the visible exhale of a whale and often the first sign of its presence you see in the distance
- The Spy Hop – where the whale lifts its head out of the water for an inquisitive, slow and controlled look.
- The Pec Slap – where the whale slaps its pectoral fins on the water, which is believed to be a form of communication or courting. The fins are a third of the body length, so very large.
- The Tail Lob – where the whale waves the fluke in the air and makes a loud slap. It can be a sign of aggression or can be used when foraging to stun their prey.
- Fluking – before diving, the whale lifts its tail.
- The Breach – the most spectacular leap out of the water, with the whale often turning to land on its back, side or forward in a chin-slap. This is a display of raw power.
To breach the whales either swim vertically upwards from depth, and head straight out of the water, or they travel close to the surface and then jerk upwards at full speed with a few tail strokes. We are told that to achieve 90% clearance, the whale needs to leave the water at 30km/hr, which requires a huge amount of energy. And yet breaching is often carried out in series as we have observed.Apparently the reasons for breaching are not known with certainty, but whales are more likely to breach in a group. It could be a simple expression of ‘joie de vivre’ or a form of communication. To us the pods looked like they were having fun! There is the belief that a breach is a display of physical fitness and could be used for dominance, courting or warning of danger. The loud smack on re-entry in the water could be useful for stunning prey, similar to lobtailing. Whatever the reason, seeing them leap out is awe inspiring.
The last few days have been an absolute highlight and we hope to see more as we keep heading north while the whales start heading south! We have seen so many, a pleasing sign that the Humpback Whale numbers are recovering. But they are still vulnerable to human interference.
We have now reached Port Macquarie where we are catching up with our friends Waz and Lisa. Here are a few images of the coast since Broughton Island.