SPRING 2020

WHALES AHOY!
Humpbacks and Southern Right whales are what you’re likely to see most, but Minkes, Blue whales and Orcas can also be spotted.

This year, from May to November, 30,000 whales are expected to swim past our shores on their annual migration, so if you head to the many vantage points along the Central Coast, chances are, you’re bound to see them.

Sightings peak in June and July when the whales head north to give birth in warmer waters after a gestation period of 11 to 12 months, and pass by again when they return south with their calves from October to November. 

We (and the whales) are fortunate that there’s an Australian Whale Sanctuary that stretches 200 nautical miles out to sea from our coastline, providing important protection for these Cetaceans of the deep through the stages of their life cycle, including calving, feeding, resting and migration.

The Humpback is the star of the migration with its spectacular breaches, tail slapping, blowing, fin slapping, spy-hopping, lob-tailing and, luckily for us, the most common in our waters. They give a large ‘bushy’ blow, have large pectoral fins and a small dorsal fin, and their backs steeply arch as they dive — which is how they got their name. In general, they surface every three minutes or so. 

During this time, the male Humpbacks sing to the females with clicks, moans and haunting high-pitched wails that range from bird-like chirps to deep rumbling sounds that carry for hundreds of kilometres.

And did you know the Humpback has a hairy back? It has a series of bump-like knobs on its back, each with a stiff hair, the purpose of which is not really known but may be for helping whales detect movement in nearby waters.

The Southern Right whale, so-named by whale hunters for being the right species to harpoon, has dark skin, no dorsal fin, and an enormous head up to a quarter of its total body length. It tends to stay in an area for longer, and can be recognised by large areas of rough skin or callosities unique to each individual, whitened as a result of whale lice. They have two separate blow holes which give a more v-shaped blow. Right whales are still highly endangered after almost being wiped out by whaling, and although Southern Rights have increased in number, their Northern Right cousins may not survive extinction.

Lead image: Craig Parry Photography

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