It is that time of the year again for some of Pacific Whale Foundation Research staff to head south for a few months to gather data on the humpback whales that migrate along the east coast of Australia.
This whale season, the team will be collecting data from different tour boats, the owners of which were kind enough to let us join them on their whalewatches. Scientists refer to these boats as platforms of opportunity (POPs), because the researchers have no influence as to where the boat is going or how long an encounter will last (those decisions are made by the tour boat captain).
The team had its first day on the water on August 1st and we could not have had a better welcome back to Hervey Bay. The first pod of humpback whales encountered were two sub-adults travelling south towards Urangan Harbour. One of these subbies, as we call them, made a magnificent breach. Some individuals were also very active at the surface, doing activities including peduncle throws, head rise, upside down tail and pectoral slaps. On that trip, four pods of inshore bottlenose dolphins and several green sea turtles were also sighted.
From a scientific point of view, it was also very exciting to get the first fluke photos of the 2014 whale season. Researchers can tell individual humpback whales apart by looking at the ventral side of the whale tail, similar to identification using human fingerprints.
The team will also be working out of Pacific Whale Foundation’s retail store at the Urangan Harbour. If you are in the area, feel free to come and see us!