A tail sailing Humpback in the afternoon sunshine displayed this extraordinary behaviour as the morning had us surrounded by busy whales on the migration pathway northbound. The sun was out this morning and our first interaction was with an extremely relaxed young Humpback who was snoozing in the shallows.
Regular surface times and hardly moving from where he last surfaced, this young whale was completely at ease in the shallow waters of Flinders Bay. A further two pods up ahead captured our attention as two big whales charged past the bow with much energy, quickly checking us out before pushing on. It appeared that a lone female had drawn the attention of this boisterous male who was keenly following her around at speed.
Eventually, he did slow down and this seemed to appease the female who relaxed and now accepted his company. Meanwhile, behind these two active adults was a couple of playful juveniles who were swivelling around on the surface and doing a fair bit of flirting. A few pec slaps and a lazy tail lob created a bit of a splash and we smiled as we watched these two whale enjoy each others company.
The afternoon also sighted many different energy levels amongst the whales as our first two encounters had them curiously swimming underneath our feet. Interested towards us, they slowly approached before coming up on our starboard side a few times. These two lovely whales were very friendly and it was a pleasure getting to know them both for a little while. Eventually the pod further behind us moved up towards them and the big male responded with some superb tail slapping. The jet black fluke of this whale was beautiful and a lovely surprise. An unusual figure up ahead had our attention and we very slowly approached to confirm our suspicions, it really was a tail sailing Humpback Whale. She was beautiful and enormous, heavily pregnant and possibly in the first stages of labour. She floated upside down with her enormous fluke gracefully bobbing above the waters surface, a behaviour known as tail sailing and something very special to see.
The reason for her unusual resting position is to assist in cooling herself down and regulating her core body temperature by allowing the breeze to flow over her fluke and small blood vessels below her skin. Making use of the environment around her and the steady afternoon breeze, this female was cooling off and seemed a little bit uncomfortable as she ever so slightly wiggled herself around every so often trying to get comfy.
Eventually and slowly she rolled back over to take a few big breaths and that was when her escort made an appearance, calmly and gently resting right alongside her before she returned back to that tail sailing position and we tiptoed away. We hope that this female will continue her journey north to find warmer waters but perhaps where she is right now is the ideal location for her… this soon to be new mum will know best.
-Whale Watch Western Australia
This post was adapted from a blog, read the original here