- Has a dorsal fin
- The most acrobatic of the whales
- Moves at up to 12 knots
- Characterised by its 'hump' back
- Rarely exceeds 15 metres in length
The humpback whale is said to be one of the most acrobatic members of the species and often provides awesome displays of breeching, spy hopping and tail slapping. Their antics can seem comical for a creature of their size as they can grow up to 15 metres long and weigh 45 tonnes.
Humpbacks consume up to a tonne of krill (small shrimp-like crustaceans) each day, which they sieve through baleen bristles. However, during the five months of their migration north for the breeding season (May to July) in the warmer waters off the Kimberly coast, they do not feed at all.
Humpback calves are usually 4.5 to 5 metres long and can weigh up to 1.5 tonnes at birth. In their first few months they stay close to their mothers and gain weight rapidly in preparation for the journey south to cooler waters. By 12 months of age the calves will have grown to 8 metres in length and gained their independence.
Only the male humpback whale 'sings'. As they do not have vocal chords, air is passed through the body passages to produce sound. Humpbacks can communicate with each other over great distances, and each year their 'song' is different.
Southern Right Whale
- No dorsal fin
- Moves slowly
- Commonly seen close to shore
- Grows up to 17.5 metres long
- Often looks like a floating log
The sedate and placid southern right whales can weigh up to 80 tonnes and reach 18 metres in length. They were named 'right whales' by the early whalers who found them easy to hunt as they swim slowly and float after death. Hence they were the 'right whale' to catch. Unfortunately, this led to them being hunted to near extinction during the last century.
Southern right whales are now protected, but with an estimated population of only 3,000 alive today they are still considered rare and endangered, making it a real privilege to observe these creatures at close quarters off Albany and Augusta.
Southern right whales can be easily identified as, unlike most whales, they do not have a dorsal fin. So when they dive or are swimming along the surface, only the straight line of their smooth backs can be seen. Southern rights also have a distinctive spout when they breathe -seen briefly as a thin v-shaped mist from its twin nostrils.
- Can grow up to 33 metres
- Vary in colour from light blue grey to dark grey
The blue whale is the largest creature that has ever lived on earth, dwarfing even dinosaurs. They can grow up to 31 metres in length and weigh up to 160 tonnes. These massive mammals are rarely seen outside of Antarctic waters and appear 'blue' when submerged, hence their name.
Sightings of blue whales have been increasing off the coast of Dunsborough, with over 100 sighted in 2005.