Whale Watching from Merimbula

Annual Humpback Whale Migration

On Wednesday, October 16, 2013 I was invited to join volunteers from Potoroo Palace on a whale watching trip with Go Whale Watching. Setting out at 9 a.m. on a clear morning, the sea swell was mild, the sun warm and the breeze cool. Camera in hand, I did what I could to capture images. While I had seen a breach (the whale lunging out of the water), it wasn’t possible to photograph it.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Tour operators offer a guarantee visitors will see whales in season (September to November). As well as whales, we saw dolphins, shearwaters (“mutton” birds) and albatross.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

It wasn’t long before we could see humpback whales in the distance. The spouts of air as they exhaled could be seen.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Coming closer, we saw a small pod of whales making their way south. Below are photos of a surfacing whale showing the head, dorsal fin and tail fluke.

 

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Below is a You Tube clip I prepared using a series of still images. It shows a humpback whale surfacing.

After viewing a few smaller pods of whales, we came across a larger pod. There seemed to be around seven whales. Their journey, as we could see each time they surfaced, wasn’t orderly. They often turned back on their course. Our boat captain explained it was most likely a “rowdy group” where a number of males were following a female and jostling to be closest. In these struggles, generally the largest male wins by forcing away the others. As baleen whales, humpbacks can’t bite but they are known to drag the barnacles growing on them across the backs of rivals. Scarring can often bee seen.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

As we were returning to Merimbula, we saw another whale pod in the distance. A whale was slapping its pectoral fin against the water. Drawing closer, we found it was a female with its calf. You can see the smaller fin of the calf at the right.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

We spotted around 20 humpbacks on their annual migration south to the Antarctic waters for the summer. Possible from September to November, the experience was worth it.

In another blog aimed at students, I shared more information about humpback whales and local whaling history. Click the link below to view the post…

Humpback Whale Migration