Travel Attractions

Humpback Whales

Humpbacks are 50- to 55-foot long, dark-colored with distinctive bumps on their noses. Their pectoral flippers are long, nearly a third of their body length.

Adult humpbacks weigh up to 45 tonnes

Adults are 10 to 15 metres in length

An adult can eat up to a tonne of krill per day

Humpback calves weigh around one tonne

Calves consume 600 litres of milk per day

At the time that hunting of the humpbacks finally ceased numbers had shrunk to little more than 500. The humpbacks now boast a population of around 4,500. Each year their migration during the winter months takes them from the feeding waters of the Antarctic north along the Australian coast to breed and give birth to new calves in the warm waters off the Whitsundays.

Humpback whales take their name from their habit of exposing a large central area of their backs when diving, as they do repeatedly when swimming along near the water surface.

Humpbacks are baleen whales which means they feed by straining their food from seawater through a series of plates on their upper jaws. They strain out plankton and very small crustaceans called krill from the water.

Humpbacks are also known to be curious, and are renowned for swimming up really close to whale watching boats where they poke their heads out of the water to get a good look at the humans.

They are the fifth largest animal on this planet, growing to a size equivalent to 11 elephants or 600 humans each ! Humpbacks are the most acrobatic of all of the great whales displaying a wide variety of leaping, rolling and breaching movements which provide fascinating viewing for whale watching humans. Adult humpbacks have been seen to breach 20 - 30 times in succession, averaging only 10 seconds between breachings. Humpbacks are also known for their complex underwater vocalisations or whale songs particularly during breeding.

According to marine biologists, humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) spend the warmer summer months in Antarctic waters feeding on krill. As winter approaches they start their annual migration north to the central and southern Great Barrier Reef. Calves are born in the warm waters of the Great Barrier Reef and then commence their first migration with their mothers back to Antarctica. Many migrating humpback whales stop off at Platypus Bay, a warm, shallow, sheltered bay on the eastern side of Hervey Bay, up against the northern tip of Fraser Island. Fraser Island is a World Heritage listed area for many other reasons, but it is because of the humpback whales that Platypus Bay is part of the Hervey Bay Marine Park.

Growing to a length of 15 metres, humpback whales can weigh up to 45 tonnes. They have a massive head that they are fond of popping high up out of the water to get a good one-eyed look at the humans. This behaviour is known as a spy-hop. Along the underside of their body they have up to 22 throat pleats running from their chins to their navel. Yes, whales do have a navel because, as mammals, they were once attached to their mother by an umbilical cord. These cetaceans have a very rough and ragged appearance once you get up close, with many knobs and lumps on their skin, liberally interspersed with barnacles.

Other outstanding features of the humpbacks' appearance are their huge pectoral fins which can be up to a third the length of their entire body, and their huge tail flukes. These body-parts are featured in some of the most interesting of whale behaviors: pectoral fin extension, pec slapping, and tail slapping.

"Humpbacks measure from 30-60 feet and weigh up to 40 tons. Their large, winglike flippers can extend to 14 feet. Very energetic, they often leap clear of the water, spin, or slap their fluke or flipper on the water’s surface. They’re also very vocal, “singing” a long series of repeated phrases."

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