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Whale Watch Blog

Welcome to the Tangalooma Whale Watch Blog.

 

Here, you can keep up to date with all of the action aboard our whale watching boat, and learn some interesting facts from our Eco Rangers. 

Sunday, 29 June 2014
Whales Showing Off!

The whales were really showing off for us today! We spent most of the afternoon with a pod of four, two adult and two juvenile, humpback whales. One of the juveniles, a young female, was particularly active and displayed almost every behaviour in the book! For about 45 minutes she was continuously breaching, pec slapping, tail lobbing, tail slapping, inverted tailslapping... An amazing show for us to watch!

These surface behaviours probably serve different purposes in different situations. Most commonly they are thought to be a form of communication. For example a big breach certainly makes a big splash and a very loud noise that can be seen and heard by other whales in the distance. It could also be a way of getting rid of some of the parasites such as whale lice or barnacles that grow on their skin. When you get males competing over a female you often see them breaching or lunging to show off their strength and dominance and ward off competitors. In the case of the younger calves or juveniles, like our female today, they are probably just having a play, or practicing some of those behaviours.

Our whales today certainly put on a spectacular display for us!

Regards,
Eco Ranger Ina
Tangalooma Marine Education & Conservation Centre

   

   

Posted by Ben
Friday, 27 June 2014
Resting Whales

Today’s cruise started off with a couple of pods of humpback whales that were resting just North of Cape Moreton. Whales and dolphins actually have a very different way of sleeping than us. They are conscious breathers meaning they have to make a conscious decision for every breath they take, rather than breathing automatically like we do. That means they cannot be unconscious or they stop breathing. So when they sleep they only shut down one half of their brain at a time to rest, while the other half is still alert and controls breathing! So they don’t sleep for extended periods like we do, they take catnaps through the day and night, maybe 20 minutes or so here and there, alternating the sides of the brain they rest. Usually when they do this, you see them cruising along slowly near the surface, or even just floating motionless at the surface which is called “logging” because they look like big floating logs.

We left those resting whales and headed North to find some more active ones and we were not disappointed. Before long we came across a group of three – two adults and a juvenile who spent a lot of time at the surface, slapping their big pectoral flippers onto the water and rolling around. At one point they surfaced right next to our boat, rolled at the surface to have a good look at us and then waved their big flippers at us! Amazing!

To finish off a great day of whale watching we found another active pod with several whales showing off a range of surface behaviours including tail lobs, tail slaps and head lunges. Certainly plenty of great photo opportunities today!

Regards,
Eco Ranger Ina
Tangalooma Marine Education & Conservation Centre

     

Posted by Ben
Thursday, 26 June 2014
Humpback population thriving

Wow, there are so many whales out here at the moment!! We had a total of 11 today and that’s just counting the ones that we stopped and spent time with, not all the other pods and blows we kept spotting all around in the distance!

It is absolutely fantastic to see so many whales out here again, considering they were hunted almost to extinction back in the 1950s and 1960s. Tangalooma used to be one of four whaling stations operating along the east coast of Australia, targeting these humpback whales. This had a huge impact on the population which was estimated at over 40,000 individuals before whaling started. By 1962, within only ten years of commercial hunting, there were only as little as 300 of these whales left! That’s the reason why whaling stopped in these waters, simply because there were no whales left to catch! Luckily the humpback whales were then placed on the protected and endangered species list in 1965 and have been fully protected in Australian waters ever since. In the 1980s most countries agreed on a complete ban of commercial whaling around the world because by then most great whale species had become very rare and people realised it was not sustainable to continue. Most countries, including Australia, have since moved on to more sustainable and friendly (and also much more lucrative!) industries such as tourism and whale watching.

We are very lucky that our humpback whale population here has been able to recover quite well, in fact it is now increasing at around 10% every year and we now have an estimated 18,000 whales again that are expected to migrate along our coast again this year. Certainly a long way up from the 300 left in the ‘60s – great news for the whales and also for us as we can come out here and watch these amazing animals show off their spectacular antics!

Regards,
Eco Ranger Ina
Tangalooma Marine Education & Conservation Centre

   

Posted by Ben
Sunday, 22 June 2014
Calm day on Moreton Bay

Another beautiful calm day today with a total of 10 humpback whales spotted in the deep blue waters North of Cape Moreton.

We spent most of the afternoon with a large pod of seven or eight adults that were all swimming North towards the breeding grounds quite fast in a tight group. More than likely this was a large female that was being followed by six or seven males. This is a behaviour called a Heat Run and is a form of courtship display commonly seen as the whales make their way towards the breeding grounds. Generally the female will be up the front, swimming quite fast, enticing a number of would-be-suitors to follow her. As they chase her, the males are also jostling amongst each other, pushing each other out of the way, sometimes even ramming or breaching on top of each other. They are trying to get in the best position, closest to the female. But what they are actually doing is exhausting themselves. And one by one the males will fall behind until only the strongest of them remains by her side. This is a good way for her to find the strongest and fittest amongst the males, which is the one she wants to breed with in the hopes that he will father strong offspring. It’s always exciting to see these large pods, and they came over to our boat several times, very close, seemingly completely unaware of our presence as they were clearly more interested in each other.

To finish off we found a juvenile whale south of Flinders Reef that did a few breaches before joining up with another juvenile nearby and continuing on their journey as a pair. They often use behaviours like breaching to communicate or signal to other whales close by, and this one certainly seemed to have succeeded in attracting the other whale’s attention. And it was a great finish for us!

Regards,
Eco Ranger Ina
Tangalooma Marine Education & Conservation Centre

   


Posted by Ben
Thursday, 12 June 2014
Moreton Bay on show!

Moreton Bay was showing off for us today with an abundance of marine life out and about during our whale watch cruise! We spotted lots of sea birds like terns, cormorants and even a few beautiful large Australasian gannets. These migratory sea birds with bright yellow heads only pass by this area at this time of the year and travel all throughout Southeast Asia, New Zealand and the South Pacific.

We also got to watch large pods of 30+ bottlenose dolphins, racing up to the boat, jumping out of waves and generally providing some great photo opportunities for us. In the deeper waters off the northern end of Moreton Island you see these dolphins in much larger groups than within the bay, which offers protection from some of the bigger predators they may encounter in the offshore waters.

Of course there were the humpback whales as well, with a total of four spotted today. We found the first pair just South of Flinders Reef, leisurely making their way North towards the breeding grounds. The second pair was spotted travelling past Cape Moreton. Both pairs consisted of an adult and a juvenile, likely mothers with their two or three-year-old calves. For the juveniles this may be the last time they complete the migratory journey alongside their mothers, they usually leave her side at 2-3 years of age, when she’s ready to have a new  calf. So during those first few years of their lives, they learn the migratory route from mum, as well as other important behaviours such as feeding techniques or social behaviours.

Regards,
Eco Ranger Ina
Marine Education & Conservation Centre

   

Posted by Ben
Friday, 6 June 2014
The Whales Are Back!

The whales are back!! Excitement was running high today as we made our way out to the beautiful waters off Cape Moreton for our first whale watch cruise of 2014. And it didn’t take us long to spot our first humpback whale of the season, slowly cruising North on the annual migration from Antarctica towards the breeding grounds off Northern Queensland. Soon another pair of whales popped up nearby, which appeared to be an adult and juvenile, probably a mother with her two- or three-year-old calf. We got some nice close looks at them as they slowly headed North past Flinders Reef.

As we started to make our way back towards Cape Moreton we suddenly spotted a massive splash off in the distance. We made our way over to what turned out to be a very active juvenile humpback whale! He or she treated us to 10 to 15 beautiful breaches, some of them right next to our boat! The whale looked very healthy, in fantastic body condition, with obviously plenty of energy to spare after having spent the summer feeding in the cold southern ocean! It was an incredible display to watch and a fantastic finish for our first whale watch of the season… Welcome back whales!

Regards,
Eco Ranger Ina
Tangalooma Marine Education & Conservation Centre

Posted by Ben
 
 
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