Have you ever met a Humpback Whale? Every one, I think, understands how phenomenal these creatures are, but when you actually get up close and personal with one, it quite literally takes your breath away. There is something utterly majestic about them that you can’t fully comprehend until you see, and quite often hear them for your self.
The sheer size of them is overwhelming, and then they do things like jump out of the water, twirling as they go, and you wonder how on earth a creature of that size can be so agile; although the landing is quite often anything but delicate!
The Humpback Whale is regarded as the acrobat of the ocean, the most active and playful of the whales we encounter. Their list of “tricks” include breaching, diving, twirling while breaching, spyhopping and lobtailing (is it me or do those last two sound like something from a Roald Dahl story?) It is not really clear why they do these things but it’s thought to have something to do with impressing a prospective partner.
They migrate south in the summer months to feed in the Arctic and then head north again for the cooler months. We start to see them usually from to July, and then again September to December.
Some fast facts for you:
- The females tend to be slightly bigger than the males. 49-52 ft compared to 43 – 46 ft. (25 – 35 tonnes of wonder)
- They don’t have teeth, instead, they have baleen plates which are used to filter out water and keep fish in when they feed. (Think sieve)
- Females only breed every 2 to 3 years. Gestation is 11.5 months and the calf suckles for a minimum of 6 months, taking approx. 600ltrs of milk from mum each day. It is though they then suckle for a further 6 months while also learning to fish.
- They have ventral grooves tat run from the lower jaw to about hallway along the underside of the whale allowing the throat to expand when they feed. Humpbacks are “gulpers”, as opposed to skimmers.
- They are clever team players when it comes to fishing. They have a technique called bubble net feeding. A pod of whales will work together, blowing bubbles in a circle with a decreasing radius trapping fish with in the bubble net. Others will swim from below, forcing the school fish upwards until the circle is condensed enough for the pod to swim upwards together, gulping and enjoying their hearty meal.
- They are quite friendly! Humpbacks have been observed travelling and interacting with several different types of whales, as well as dolphins.
- A Humpback Whale has two blow holes – one for each lung.
- The knobs on a Humpbacks head are called tubercles and are actually hair follicles.