Saturday, August 22, 2015 Whale Watch - Naturalist Carly Hepburn


Chin breaching by a humpback calf.

With a slight chance of rain we headed offshore and were able to see three species of whales: humpback, finback, and minke whales. We saw a few quick surfacings of finback whales right off of Race Point which is an area where we have a had a lot of sighting of finback whales this past month. We didn’t stay in the area long because our Captain had reports of a group of 5 humpback whales traveling together so we needed to head further offshore.

Cajun, Jabiru, and one calf on the surface.

As we moved into the area of this group we had a quick glimpse of a minke whale, these whales are very elusive and typically we will only see them surface quickly before they disappear. As we got closer to our group of 5 humpbacks we were able to identify these individuals as Cajun and her calf, Jabiru and her calf, and Pele.

One of the calves doing a spinning head breach while Cajun flukes out.

Very quickly one of the calf’s’ began jumping right out of the water doing a spinning head breach. A spinning head breach is when an animal jumps out of the water, head first, twists their body, and lands on their side. After a few spinning head breaches the calf began doing chin breaches repeatedly. A chin breach is when a whale jumps out of the water, lunging forward, and lands at the surface of the water on its chin.

Calf chin breaching.

Calf chin breaching.

As the calf was breaching we were keeping track of how many times it would repeat this behavior. With our data we know that the calf did 18 spinning head breaches and 45 chin breaches! We were given an incredible show as this curious calf circled all around the boat. After looking through our pictures in many of these displays you can see the calf’s eyes wide open, doing an aerial survey of its surroundings. It’s amazing to see that when we come offshore to view these animals a lot of the times they are just as curious with us as we are with them!

Calf chin breaching.

Calf chin breaching.

We were also able to watch the adult’s surface as the two calves\ hung out waiting for them to come back up. Our group of whales stayed in the same area as they dove underwater so we can predict that they were subsurface feeding, feeding on baitfish lower in the water column.

Humpback whale Pele fluking out.

Jabiru and one of the calves fluking out together.

All too soon we had to leave the area and begin making our way back home but we were able to pick up one last sighting as we headed back to the harbor. This whale was a slightly smaller humpback and seemed to be a juvenile. As we approached the area the humpback began lobtailing and inverted lobtailing. Lobtailing is when a whale lifts their fluke/tail right our of the water and forcefully slaps it against the surface of the water. Inverted lobtailing is when the whale does the same behavior but is belly up.


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