Sunday, September 27, 2009

Humpback Whales


Humpbacks at Noosa...

When I told my physio
about seeing whales
he offered me his photographs
taken last week in his boat
off the Noosa Headland
and said
I was welcome to post them

Not only is he a Physiotherapist
he is a very generous
and kind man

Humpback whales migrate
from the cold waters of the Antarctic
via the South Island of New Zealand
to the warm waters of Hervey Bay,
at the bottom of the Great Barrier Reef
about a two hours drive north of Noosa

They arrive late July for calving
and remain until November
giving birth in the sanctuary of Hervey bay
before returning to the Antarctic

About 3000 Humpbacks
make this annual pilgrimage
and although they are an endangered species
their numbers are increasing

While Humpbacks
are the size of eleven elephants
they are the most acrobatic
of the big whales
They leap and roll and breach
with amazing grace and power
Adult whales have been seen
to breach 20-30 times
within the space of five minutes

The humpback whale
is classified as a rorqual
which means that
he has a dorsal fin on his back
and ventral pleats running
from the tip of his lower jaw
to the navel area

Humpbacks feed on krill
which are small thumb sized
prawn like animals
and also crustacea

They can eat 1-8 tonnes of krill per day
but they only eat in the summer
in the feeding grounds of Antarctica
25% of their summer intake
is stored as fat
for the great winter migration

Mating and birthing
occur in the warm waters of Hervey Bay
Gestation takes 11-12 months
the calves are 5m long at birth
and weigh 1.5 tonnes

The cow's milk has a high fat content of 35%
and 600 litres is produced per day
by the mothers

Whales have the longest
and most varied songs
in the animal world
The sounds are made
by the movement of air
through the body passages

Sounds are organised into sequences
of 10-15 minutes duration
and repeated without pause for hours
The sequences are arranged in cycles
characteristic of each population of whales
so that all of the humpbacks in one area
sing only the local song

Only male humpbacks sing
and only in the breeding season

The songs evolve over time
and each year it is a little different
but every change is picked up
and incorporated into the current sequence

The songs may function as a sexual display
advertise the presence of a breeding mate
and keep the family group together
but the complexity of the songs
suggest that there is more to it than that...

This year
with my broken ankle
I saw no whales heading North
save for a distant glimpse yesterday

I am hoping for some good sightings
in November

One year I was out very early
at 5.30 am
with Beloved,
being put through our fitness paces
on a little rocky outcrop
overhanging a tiny bay
on the headland
when our P.T. noticed
a mother and calf sheltering
directly below us
in the shallow waters...

so I am hopeful...


Photographs by Peter Hogg
Information gathered from Discover Hervey Bay



  1. Delwyn

    These are superb shots and a highly illuminating post.

    I truly hope you get some good sightings this year.

    Isn't it strange how many of us are so wrapped up in ourselves that we can sometimes forget about the fantastic creatures we share this planet with?

  2. Hi Martin

    that's a good point..we all do get caught up in our own lives and don't give much thought to the myriad other lives of all shapes and forms that we are on the earth with...

    A few minutes ago I was cradling a week old baby and revelling with awe in wonder at its tiny fingers so perfectly formed...and watched her breathing, stretch and relax ...such wonders we are...such is all life...

    Happy days

  3. Hi Delwyn, Super photos and interesting post. I look forward to hearing you've had lots of sightings later in the year.
    Not sure if I can alter the verification thingy on my site but will have go!
    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Hi Elcmae

    easy peasy:

    Click on 'customize' at top right next to New Post

    Click 'settings'

    click 'Comments'

    Scroll down to 'comment moderation'

    Click 'never'

    Save at bottom


    Happy days

  5. Superb Delwyn! Thank you, and thank your physiotherapist from me.
    Such a wonderful creature.
    Good luck with the sightings and the ankle.

  6. Hi Joanne

    I will pass on your thanks...I will be doing a lot of looking in November. The ankle is almost back to normal thanks largely to the wonderful physio...

    Happy days

  7. Delwyn: What an interesting post. I've always been fascinated by whales - the beauty and grace of such an enormous creature. The details you provide about their songs is intriguing. I'm sure there is much more 'communication' going on in the universe than we of the human species think!

    Thank Peter Hogg for his great photographs. Hope you get the sightings you are wanting - because I'm sure you will share them with us!!

    Are you still dealing with the residue from the sand storms?

  8. I am hopeful for you too Delwyn...

    The only whale I have seen in person was at Sea World...and although impressed by it's size, am well aware it was a small see one that might be as large as 11 elephants would be a moment to remember.

    Love nature and it's bounty...from whales to turtles...
    Thanks for the turtle title! :)
    Smiles always,

  9. hello delwyn, the first whale i saw was when i was seven years old. my mum worked at the university of manchester and she took me to a building where they had the skeleton of a blue whale hanging from the ceiling of a massive room! it was staggeringly huge. since then i have only seen them in captivity. something which i prefer not to do anymore as it renders me so sad. i wanted to add a fact to your very thorough presentation that might astonish you.
    "How far do the songs travel under water? Blue whales could once communicate from pole to pole - that means halfway around the world! But due to increasing noise pollution of the oceans, this is believed now to be nearly impossible. Years ago while doing a humpback singing study, researchers working together in Mexico, Japan, and Hawaii, found when the song altered slightly in Hawaii, within several days it also altered in Mexico and Japan to match the Hawaiian singers."
    delwyn, this info. came from "". have a lovely evening by the river delwyn. steven

  10. You live is a most fascinating part of the world and you have such vast knowledge to share. What a gift!!

    I'm grateful to your physio-therapist for sharing his photographs so that the rest of us might enjoy what he was able to see and capture with his lens.

  11. Whales are really wonderful creatures. I think what fascinates me the most (besides their size) is that they sing. Thanks for this. I learned stuff I didn't know.

  12. They are truly awesome creatures. When they migrate here, they stay beyond the kelp beds, so we can only spot them by their spouting. They head south down the coast to calf in the Sea of Cortez in Mexico. Happy to know their numbers are increasing!

  13. I love coming to your blog and always learn something from your posts. However, today was exceptional, even for you. Please thank your physiotherapist for me. I enjoyed his photos almost as much as I enjoy yours.

  14. One of the highlights of my life was last year in Maine - we went whale watching off the coast. What magnificent creatures worthy of our protection and awe!

    Beautiful pictures. Thank you for sharing.

  15. Thirty years ago I saw whales in Acapulco Bay. I'll never forget how amazing it was to watch them. Thanks for sharing this.

  16. I hope you get to see them in November too! I was lucky enough to see orcas off the coast of Washington once and grey whales in Malibu. Thank you for sharing these lovely photos!

  17. I keep being amazed at how unbelievable New Zealand is. What an amazing creature that is and yes....such a grace with this size. Great post!


  18. Hi Ruslan

    Its nice to see you...did you get the message I sent via the humpback whale song...

    I am actually in Australia. I did grow up in NZ and occasionally post about visits to my family there but all my other posts are based in Queensland Au...

    I'm glad you enjoyed the humpback post

    Happy days

  19. Hello Amy
    I am going to be very watchful..many walks over the headland will be made...

    We have many dolphins in the bays here too and they swim in very close and demonstrate their graceful diving...

    Happy days

  20. Hi PL
    How are you...

    I'm glad I resurrected those memories for you with this story...

    Happy days

  21. Hi Cook

    You were lucky to go out to see the whales up close from the boat. Many tourists go to Hervey bay for that experience...

    Happy days

  22. Hello Barry

    Owww, thanks for those accolades Barry

    I will pass them on to Peter...

    Thanks for joining us today...

    Happy days

  23. Hi GW

    Usually the whales are quite a way out to sea here as well , hence Peter's boat... but if we sit out on the Headland at Hell's Gates sometimes we get lucky...

    and on their return with the calves they come in closer...
    I might be able to capture some...

    Happy days

  24. Hi Ellen

    yes that intrigues me too...their communication and Steven has added some more fascination info above...

    Happy days

  25. Hi Sherry

    I do live in a wonderful place and yes I do have lots of information to share, largely thanks to Mr google...

    I'll relay you appreciation to Peter...when I see him on Thursday...

    Happy days

  26. Hi Steven

    When I was a child in CHCH NZ we spent many days of the school holidays in the museum. There was a blue whale skeleton there that stretched right across the bottom floor of the a child it was colossal...

    Thank you so much for this wonderful addition...that is amazing...I had to rush out and tell Beloved (eating his muesli) about these details you provided...

    I will read the site info later...thank you Steven...

    Happy days

  27. what incredible shots and so very interesting to read about them. You didn't mention...are they monogamous? I do so hope that you will be able to see more this year...make sure the camera is on hand. So fascinating!

  28. Hi Wanda P.S.T.

    How are you this glorious Monday morning...

    I'm glad you like all things great and small...all things bright and beautiful...

    Happy days

  29. Hello Bonnie

    I hope I can come up with something as the whales move back down to Antarctica...

    The dust swirled around again on Saturday - we could see it sitting over the hinterland hills when we walked up and over the Noosa hill late in the day...I did a big wash down outside but am still finding more dust...

    Happy days

  30. Hello Alicia

    I can't remember reading anything that suggested they pair for life, I will take another look. I get the feeling that there are fathering males for all the cows...

    Happy days

  31. Hi Everybody

    here are some whale song links that are great...

    with this one click on the ones that say WAV and they open immediately

    Happy days

  32. Alicia

    Just did a little research and yes the males can do battle for the females, up to 40 have been seen vying for the rights to one female...

    Humpbacks can be rather solitary travellers or move in loose groups coming together at times...

    Happy days

  33. How lucky are you to get these great photos to use! Better yet, to actually have seen these amazing animals in person would be an awesome experience. The sheer majesty of them! Thanks for all the great details about them, I had no idea about most of them.

  34. Wonderful post! Humpbacks visit the waters off of Sonoma County California, and I've been lucky enough to see them in person while on a whale watching boat tour. My friend, who rows in Monterey Bay saw a humpback breach near his rowing scull last summer.

    I read a novel by Douglas Abrams this summer called Eye of the Whale about Humpbacks, who swim into the San Francisco Bay now and then, and in his novel this happens again.

    He did a lot of research on Humpbacks before writing his novel. Humpbacks have much much larger and more complexly organized brains than we humans. One of the characters in his book supposes that their songs are so much more complex than human language that for us to understand their songs would be like snails understanding English. Thoughts like that are dismissed out of hand within the scientific community, hence he decided to write fiction as a way of getting closer to the truth.

  35. Thank you for this post Delwyn, I enjoyed it very much. Whales are fantastic, I wish everyone could see them in the wild.
    Beautiful photos.

  36. Hello Vicky

    I'm glad you liked the whales too. thanks for dropping over...

    Happy days

  37. Hi Dan

    I would love to go out whale watching but my inner ear says NO...

    Thank you for the book reference .I'd like to read that...I thought what Steven wrote was amazing...

    It's good to have you here,

    Happy days

  38. Hi Lori ann

    I'm happy you enjoyed the whales too...
    It's nice to have you come over...

    Happy days

  39. Wow, just fabelous, one never know what one is going to find on your blog.

  40. Great photos and fascinating info about the humpbacks. I knew they had songs, but didn't know they lasted so long.

  41. Hi Janie

    and did you read what Steven said about their acute hearing...

    Happy days

  42. Thanks Ann

    I also never know what I am going to see or find or run into each day...

    Happy days

  43. Interesting, Delwyn, and some great shots! Can you hear the whale song, or is it only underwater? xxox

  44. Hello Margaret

    I put some links for songs in a comment box above...they are worth a listen...

    Happy days


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