With the Humpback Whale season upon us for another year and a plethora of sightings being recorded up and down the Australian coastline, we thought it might be a good time to share with you some quick facts about these majestic creatures.
From the size of Humpback Whales to the food they eat, migrating patterns, birthing phenomena and common behaviours- here are 10 incredible facts about Humpback Whales that you may not know.
1. An Adult Humpback Whale is the same size as a bus
Humpback Whales are among the world’s largest ocean mammals and this is one of the reasons why they are so adored by eagle eyed whale watchers. An adult Humpback Whale can range from 14 to 18 metres long while their calves are often found to be around 4 metres. At birth, the whales weigh around 2 tonnes but will grow very rapidly to 50 tonnes.
An adult Humpback Whale is roughly the same size as a bus. The sheer size of Humpback Whales is something very hard to comprehend until you see them gracefully swimming in the ocean with your own eyes on a whale watching cruise.
2. Humpbacks communicate through ‘Whale Song’
Humpback Whales are known for their complex ‘whale songs’ which can be up to 30 minutes long. It is thought that the whale song is a method of communication and a way to attract a mate. Researchers have concluded that it is among the most complex song in the animal kingdom and there is still much more to learn about how Humpback Whales communicate with each other.
Many whale watching cruises now include an underwater hydrophone on their vessels so passengers can listen to whale songs live on the boat. If there are any musical whales about then this is just one indicator. If you are one of the few lucky passengers hoping to swim with humpback whales in Queensland then you too may just hear the high pitched whale song during your aquatic adventure.
3. Humpback Whales eat a tonne of food daily (literally)
The foods of choice for Humpback Whales are krill, plankton and small fish. Humpback Whales eat a tonne of food every day, which should come as no surprise given their size and the long distances they travel during their annual migration. The whales will spend their summer months feeding in Antarctic waters in preparation for their annual migration.
4. Humpback Whales can hold their breath for 30 minutes
Humpback whales can hold their breath for as long as 30 minutes but usually surface every 15 minutes which is great for those who are hoping to catch a glimpse of them on a whale watching cruise. When a whale does come to the surface for a breath of air ‘the blow’ into the air is a telltale sign that a Humpback Whale is nearby.
5. The Humpback Whales travel 10,000 km on their annual migration
Every year, Humpback Whales leave the cold winter temperatures of Antarctica and travel to the warmer waters of Australia for a tropical break of their own. The annual Humpback Whale migration is 10, 000 km long and draws crowds from far and wide all hoping to spot a whale along the Australian coast between April and November.
While there are some fantastic places to partake in whale watching on land, a whale watching cruise is a far better option because you can travel deep into their territory to enjoy a personal encounter unlike any other wildlife experience. In fact, if the Humpback Whales are feeling particularly friendly, you may even get wet when they surface or breach around the vessel but it is a small price to pay for such an a wonderful wildlife encounter.
6. There are around 40, 000 Humpback Whales in the Southern Hemisphere and growing
It is hard to believe but the Humpback Whale population in the Southern Hemisphere came very close to extinction in the 1960’s due to whaling activities in Australian and International waters. Thankfully, the practice of whaling has since been banned and the Humpback Whale population is recovering.
It is thought that there are 40, 000 Humpback Whales currently and that number is expected to grow as long as there are enough food sources available to these majestic creatures.
7. Queensland is a breeding and birthing ground for Humpback Whales
As mentioned earlier, Humpback Whales in the Southern Hemisphere make the trek from Antarctica to North Queensland to enjoy the harsh winters and frolic in the warmer tropical waters. It is also here that they aim to find a mate to breed or birth their baby calves.
Witnessing a whale in their natural habitat is nothing short of spectacular but to catch a glimpse of a mother with her calve is a once in a lifetime experience. Whale watching cruises make this experience possible.
8. The Humpback Whale gestation period is 11 months
When female Humpback Whales fall pregnant they carry their young calves for 11 to 11.5 months which means that they generally breed and give birth in North Queensland during the annual migration.
9. Humpback Whales give birth to one calve
Just like their human counterparts, Humpback Whales generally only have one calve at a time and they spend their time in Australian waters feeding and weaning their young in preparation for the journey back to Antarctica. If you are lucky, you may just see a mother and her baby on a whale watching cruise.
10. Migaloo the white whale visits Australia every year
Australia is very lucky to play host to a very special albino Humpback Whale named ‘Migaloo‘. The elusive white whale is around 32 years old and was first spotted off the coast of Bryon Bay in 1986. There are only 3 or 4 other white whales known to exist which makes him extra special.
The best way to see Migaloo and his friends is on a whale watching cruise during his annual migration. The whale season occurs every year between April and November depending on where you are located in Australia. To witness this natural phenomena, Experience Oz has whale watching cruises avaiable across the country so that you can make this magical wildlife experience a reality.
For more information on any whale watching cruises or to make a booking click the link below.