There were plenty of humpback whales around again today, in the calm waters around Cape Moreton. We are now at the end of the northern migration, with many whales already heading back South again towards Antarctica. We’ve only been seeing very few pods heading North anymore over the past few weeks, but today there were several of them making their way up past the Cape and Flinders Reef. These northbound whales seem to be on a mission to get to the breeding grounds now, with most of them travelling quite quickly. But they did give us a lot of great views at their big tail flukes today, which everyone always loves getting photos of!
When the humpback whales take a deeper dive they arch their backs, giving them that “humpbacked” appearance, where the name comes from. And sometimes they then raise their entire tail out of the water. The tail fluke can be quite large, up to 3-5 m wide in a fully grown adult. Humpbacks are generally black and white in colour, black on the back and white on the belly. This is a common colour pattern in marine animals and is known as “counter shading”. It’s a form of camouflage, as the black back blends in well with the dark ocean below it (looking from above) whereas the white belly blends in with the sunlit surface of the ocean (looking from below).
So the tail fluke is also usually white underneath but it’s generally not completely white, it has black lines, spots or other patterns and markings on it. If you get a good photograph of the underside of the tail, you can actually identify that individual whale as no two are the same! Today we even saw a whale that had an almost completely black underside of the tail fluke which is quite unique!