Southern Right Whale Nursery Grounds

Our morning was absolutely perfect, the most calm Southern Ocean you will ever see and not a whisper of wind as we made our way towards the Southern Right Whale nursery grounds. One, two, three… four mother and calf pods were all in a row including little Stacka who seemed to be taking over the playgroup! He was rolling all over his mum and showing off his beautiful white chin as he spy hopped and breached, mum seemed proud of her calf as she gently lifted him up on her back to get a better view of us as they cruised past our bow in the nursery grounds. The other calves were resting with one of the second calves enjoying a little bit of tail slapping practiced which captured Stacka’s attention who quickly spiralled up and out of the water in a spy hop to see what was going on. A few big breaches on the horizon showed signs of Humpback activity so we moved out towards where we had our last sighting. A tall blow rocketed skyward and we met a large adult Humpback who was cruising into the bay and seemed to be in search of something. Lifting his enormous flukes in picture perfect tail dives we watched his graceful movement through the bay.

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.

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!

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