Humpback Whale Facts
Scientific name: Megaptera Novaeangliae
Baiyungu name: Jumbuwardu Burniji
Conservation Status: Globally - Least Concern, in Western Australia - Conservation Dependant
Length (Max): 15 - 18m
Humpback Whales evolved from land mammals 50 million years ago.
To have the opportunity to interact with whales anywhere in the world is both a blessing and a beautiful marine experience. Humpbacks are one of the most acrobatic and interactive of all the great whales.
They can reach up to 18m length and weigh 40 tonnes. Known as the acrobats of the ocean, they can propel themselves clear of the water in spectacular breaches with just a couple of kicks of their fluke (tail fin), making them one of the most powerful animals on the planet. In breeding season competing males perform truly spectacular displays and sing beautiful, haunting love songs to communicate.
Humpback whales are baleen whales and like the whale shark (that are sharks, not whales, and do not have baleen) they feed on the some of the smallest animals in the ocean, plankton consisting of krill and very small fish.
In May each year Humpback whales begin an epic migration from the cold waters of Antarctica, to the warm tropical waters of Broome, Western Australia. This migration is one of the longest migrations of any mammal in the world and is 3,600 Nautical Miles (6,700km) long and lasts for up to 8 months.
The main reason for this impressive journey is for the pregnant female Humpback Whales to calve and also for mating purposes. Contrary to what most people think, individual Whales generally travel alone or in temporary aggregations of generally non-related individuals (cow-calf pairs being the exception), meaning they don’t travel in family specific pods like Orca’s.
Humpback Whales get their name from their dorsal fin. It is distinctive from other baleen whales as they have a hump on the leading edge of their dorsal fin. This is a great way to identify a Humpback Whale when you are Whale watching anywhere around the globe.
If you have ever heard a recording of a beautiful whale song, chances are that is was song performed by a Humpback Whale; as they are known to have a range of sounds and vocalisations. These sounds can be used for foraging, when in distress and in non-mating, social circumstances. The most studied vocalisations are songs produced by solitary males. The exact function of male Humpback Whale song has yet to be determined, but it is believed to be an integral part of male Humpback Whales' behaviour as a form of sexual display.
A male Humpback Whale can sing for a period of minutes to hours and the song can vary over a range of frequencies with more powerful parts of the song audible over several kilometres underwater.
The Ningaloo coast has one of the longest continual Whale watching season spanning from late June to November. The Exmouth Gulf plays an integral part in the Humpback Whale migration as it is a very important resting area.
Resting areas are used by cow-calf pairs and attendant males during the southern migration. These whales appear to use sheltered bays to opportunistically rest during migration to the feeding grounds and include Western Australia - Exmouth Gulf, Shark Bay, Geographe Bay, and waters adjacent to the Houtman Abrolhos Islands
Ocean Eco Adventures operates Whale Swimming and Watching tours aboard the luxurious ‘Latitude 22’ from Exmouth, Ningaloo Reef from August to early November.