2009 04 11 Whales all over the place, over a dozen new fluke ids- over 60 fluke ids in ten days! Print E-mail
Written by Andrew Stevenson   

These are the two munchkins I leave at home with mummy on the weekends when I'm out on the boat all day.

We set off once again from Somerset Bridge at 9.30 am on Dom Pérignon with Bob Steinhoff, Camilla, her friend Ian, Amanda Dale from the Royal Gazette and Ron Lucas. Being a Saturday we decided to avoid all the whale watching boats and headed directly for Challenger where we saw our first whale on the eastern edge. The whale was clearly feeding, down for 11 minutes at a time. We stayed around long enough to get his fluke id and then continued onto the Challenger platform where we soon picked up multiple spouts and saw breaches, tail lobbing, body breaches and cartwheels like the series below.





Over the course of six hours we counted scores of whales, managed to get the fluke ids of over a dozen, succesfully got into the water with three and obtained more underwater video footage. As the winds kept picking up and the seas got messier, we began heading slowly back while leaving plenty of tantalising spouts in our wake. We picked up one whale on the north eastern edge of Challenger and shadowed her at 5-6 knots across the canyon to the north western edge of Sally Tuckers where we found another three whales in 50-foot water breaching and tail lobbing. They appeared to be a female with an escort and challenger.

I was in the water with these three whales when 40 tons of animal suddenly exploded out of the ocean. It takes a couple of strokes of its massive fluke for a humpback to launch itself almost entirely out of the ocean. A female, an escort and a challenger are not always the best companions to be filming underwater. Much as I love humpback whales, I pick and choose the animals I swim with, especially with those two munchkins waiting for me at home! As gentle as the humpbacks are, they have their own reasons for doing things and a massive 40 tons of testosterone-laden whale landing on top of you will hurt, leaving you not much more than goo in a wetsuit. A flick of a twelve-foot fluke, a sideswipe of a sixteen-foot pectoral fin will also leave a sizeable dent. Good thing these fifty-foot giants don't bite!

Were there as many whales today as there were last Monday, before the full moon? It's hard to say. Only a day after the full moon, it seems there were probably as many whales still on Challenger, but it was more difficult to keep them in sight with the higher winds and waves we had today. I heard no whale song but I thought I heard dolphins. We also saw some whales with distinctive dorsal fins like the one below that I thought I recognised from last week. These are the raking teeth marks of an orca attack.

And here is one of three fluke ids that Marco Silva on Fantasea sent me. I didn't even have to use Adobe Photoshop on this! Thanks Marco!



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