Incredible sequence of events led us to be in a privileged position to get some incredible footage of how a Humpback Mother will defend her calf by all means necessary, including using our vessel as a protection barrier and the help of some heroic Dolphins. There are some erroneous opinions that Humpback Whales will abandon their calves which this footage explains why they will fight to the death to protect their young. The males do not wish to harm the calf at any stage but do want to mate with the Mother and in the competition the calf can become separated which is fatal.
The footage from Flinders Bay, Augusta today shows what we have experienced before but never as intense as the Mother brought her calf time and time again close into our vessel, even pushing herself and the calf slightly into our hull where the males could not go. For 40 minutes the Mother and calf kept very close to our vessel and as the intensity and focus diminished from the males until one left the area and the lone male then behaved himself enough to be welcomed as an escort.
Incredibly there were two mother and calf Humpbacks being chased by five males this afternoon and we recognised both mother/calf pods as females we have sighted before in Flinders Bay including Sunny the calf and his mum Spirit. The females did not seem to want to leave each other even though one of them had the opportunity to swim away, she returned back to the side of the second mother and calf seeming to understand the desperation of the situation. After being chased for over thirty minutes by the males and growing increasingly desperate, Sunny and his mum moved over towards our vessel and did not leave. The second mother and calf pod then left the area quickly to avoid detection from the males as they spotted the opportunity to do so.
Spirit pushed Sunny so close to us his body rubbed up against our hull as she blocked the approach of the males and protected her calf from being crushed. We could hear the distress in her exhalation as she trumpeted towards the males in aggression and Sunny was doing everything he could to follow mums directions. He was so trusting towards us as his tiny body flopped off mums back every time she resurfaced, he was looking for that security by travelling on her back for protection. She continued to stay with us and by doing so the other males eventually dispersed except for one, who continued to follow her closely.
To everyones great surprise the bodyguards moved in as the local Bottlenose Dolphins raced towards the situation and surrounded mother and calf protectively. One of the dolphins was even sighted flashing their mouth wide and showing off his teeth towards the male Humpback! They could feel the energy between mother and calf who were slowly calming back down as the immediate danger of separation had settled slightly. The approach of a young male Humpback changed the mentality of the larger male in a good way as he now took ownership of mother and calf, defensively chasing the other male away and it was at this moment both Sunny and Spirit relaxed enough to now move away from our vessel. The large male now appeared to be acting as an escort for mother and calf and instead of chasing after them was now actively defending and chasing the younger male away.
Sighting this type of interaction is truly remarkable even in the natural nursery grounds further north in the Kimberly. To have the privilege of seeing this interaction in Flinders Bay, Augusta and being in a position to be accepted by the female Humpback to assist in saving her calf from immediate danger is something we will always treasure and a true once in a lifetime experience. Humpback Whales are one of the most remarkable whales in the world and today was a perfect example why, no situation is too great for these whales to find a way to adapt and succeed and we can all be inspired by that!