Humpback Whale breaching in Geographe Bay, Busselton, Western Australia

Flying Humpback Alert – Very Close!

7. Sep
2013

We had an amazing day on our Busselton whale watching tour on Thursday with this Humpback Whale leaping out of the water repeatedly right next to the boat.  You can see just how close at times by the photo that has the boat rail and the splash!

Why do Humpback Whales breach?

Imagine the energy it must take to propel 40 to 50 tonne of Humpback out of the water, why would they do this?  Scientists haven’t been able to answer this question but there are a couple of schools of thought:

One idea is that they are trying to remove lice and other parasites from their skin – just like when any other mammal scratches up against a tree.  You can imagine what the impact of hitting the water would be.

Communication is thought to be another possible reason. The sound of them crashing back into the water carries a huge distance.  They may also be look around (if they can hear something like a boat but not see it).

Another hypothesis, given that they are known for breaching more in rough weather, is that it gives them a chance to take a good breath of air when spray is flying off the waves.  Not sure whether the effort would be worth one breath?

Of course there could be a lot more going on under the water that we have no idea about and it could be part of a pattern of behaviour.  Or it could just feel good….

Whatever the reason, it sure makes for spectacular viewing – there are always screams of excitement when we are lucky enough to witness one of these giants rocketing out of the water.  The splash when they re-enter is always pretty spectacular too.

(Click on image to open gallery)

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