- Mission & Vision
- Our Core Values
- PWF in The Media
- Board of Directors
- Social Media Outreach
- Join our Mailing List
- Contact Us
- Research History
- Our Research Team
- Research Internships
- Current Studies
- Australia Research
- Abundance, Survival, Recruitment, and Realized Growth Rates of East Australia Humpback Whales
- Calving Rates and Intervals of East Australian Female Humpback Whales
- Connectivity and Interchange Between Humpback Whale Aggregation Areas along East Australia
- Match My Whale - a Humpback Whale Fluke Identification Project
- PWF’s Southern Hemisphere Humpback Whale Catalog
- Rate of Interchange Between East Australia and West Australia Humpback Whales
- Ecuador Research
- Hawaii Research
- Distribution and Accumulation of Marine Debris: Implications for Cetaceans
- Great Whale Count
- Hawaiian Humpback Whale Catalog
- Odontocete Distribution, Abundance, and Life Histories.
- Social Structure of False Killer Whales in Maui Four-Island Region
- Surprise Encounters with Humpback Whales
- Whale and Dolphin Tracker
- Other Projects
- Australia Research
- Donate to Help Fund our Research
- Donate Your Whale or Dolphin Photos
- Migaloo the White Humpback Whale
- You Can Help
- Become a Member / Renew Membership
- Donate Now
- Donation Specials
- Other Ways You Can Donate
- Adopt a Whale, Dolphin, Turtle or False Killer Whale
- Whale Regatta
- Maui Whale Festival Events
- Sponsor Run & Walk for the Whales
- Sponsor World Whale Day
- Made on Maui Fair Vendor Application
- Book an Eco-Cruise
- Choose PWF
- Ocean Store
Your Momma is a Whale
29 August 2010
Despite the challenging weather and rain squalls about, we head out to sea.
One of the main purposes of our study is the development of a long-term data set of reproductively active females. Since 1984 we have documented the life histories of over 500 female humpback whales and their offspring. This is one of the largest known data sets of breeding humpback whales in the world.
Some females we observe with calves every couple of years, and some only every decade or so, likely because we fail to find them each year or so. Three years ago we resighted a female we last saw with a calf in 1984 and she re-appeared off Eden on Christmas eve in 2007. We have no idea where she has been all these years or how we missed seeing her. Such are the vagaries of live whale research.
The 'normal' birth interval appears to be about one calf every 2 - 3 years once they reach sexual maturity at around 8 - 10 years. Females are about 10-15% larger than males when mature, or some 45 - 50 feet in length and weighing about a ton per foot.
When you are studying long-lived marine mammals, the data can be slow and tedious in coming. That is why you must push yourself to go out every day and ‘see who is out there’.
Today we survey the waters on the eastern side of Hook, Whitsunday, Border and Edward Islands. The seas are rough and the skies darken and lighten throughout the day. Annie stands steadfast on the bow forever searching but the conditions prove challenging.
We find three mother and calf pairs today. As we round Hayman Island we encounter the same mother, calf and escort pod we found yesterday near Dumbbell Island. This time the escort is singing, and the calf is in a frisky mood, occasionally pec slapping and throwing his peduncle across its mother’s head.
We head west and find shelter behind the NW end of Hayman. The ocean falls flat and it feels like the day was never poor. Yachts are streaming to this spot in search of a safe anchorage and a break from the weather.
In order to increase our data collection on females, we opt to send Amanda to Hervey Bay early. We have received word that mothers and calves have begun to arrive there, some 900 km south of our position. Amanda will spend the next week collecting fluke IDs from the whalewatch vessels and speaking to school groups, before Annie and I arrive.
We can’t let Amanda leave without a send-off so we make her wash down the research boat one last time. Then Annie drives her to the bus depot in Proserpine, but not before stopping for a glorius meal of fish and chips.
“It was the only place open on a Sunday night.” gushes Annie “But is was the best fish and chips I have ever had in Australia.”
Foodies take note: that’s my fried food connoisseur speaking.