Kiah the humpback whale

The Story of Kiah

Kiah is a humpback whale that has been sighted by our research team on three separate occasions off the eastern seaboard of Australia. Our team chose to name this whale Kiah in honor of the spectacular natural beauty of the place where it was first sighted. The word "Kiah" originates from an Australian aboriginal dialect and is translated as "from a beautiful place."

Pacific Whale Foundation has carried out research in Australia since 1984 to determine the migratory patterns, behavioral characteristics and population estimates of Australian humpback whales. This research has included shore, aerial and water based studies on both the east and west coasts of Australia. Through the years, Pacific Whale Foundation has photo-identified more than 3,000 individual humpback whales along Australia's east coast, including Kiah, your adopted whale.

Our first sighting of Kiah took place 26 years ago on June 6, 1984 near Point Lookout during our Australia field research season. At that time, Kiah was alone. Point Lookout is located on North Stradbroke Island, a beautiful sand island that has towering sand dunes and small areas of rainforest. It is about 30 kilometers southeast of the capital city of Brisbane. There are no bridges to North Stradbroke Island; many people travel to "Straddie" (as it's called locally) by ferry and spend their time enjoying the tranquil natural environment.

Point Lookout is on the "surf side" of North Stradbroke Island. This point is the most easterly point of Queensland and offers fantastic views of the Pacific Ocean. From the months of June through November, it's possible to stand on this point and view humpback whales migrating between their feeding grounds off Antarctica and their calving areas closer to the equator. On their return trip to the feeding areas, the whales are often accompanied by calves.

After the sighting off Point Lookout, we didn't see Kiah again for 14 years - but when we did, on October 13, 1998, Kiah was with one other whale and was off the coast of Eden. This location is about 1,140 kilometers south of where we had first seen Kiah off Point Lookout.

Eden is a small town (with a population of only 3,270) on the shores of Twofold Bay. It is located within a five hour drive of Sydney and Melbourne, and about 3 hours from Canberra. The town was founded in whaling days and today is an important fishing port. Eden received international fame when a story aired on the t.v. show Nature, which described the cooperative relationship between orca whales and the local whalers. The orca helped herd other species of whales into Twofold Bay, chasing the frightened animals to the point of exhaustion, which made it easy for the whalers to kill them. The orca were rewarded with a portion of the whale meat.  Fortunately, Australia no longer engages in whaling, and the whales that migrate along the coast by Eden are safe from whalers' harpoons.

Kiah was sighted again nine years later, on October 5, 2007, off the coast of Eden. Kiah was in a pod of five animals. Much to the delight of our researchers, the whales were feeding!

Prior to the early 1990s, it was generally believed that humpback whales in this area didn't engage in significant feeding behaviors while at their mating and calving areas, or when they were undertaking the migration back to Antarctica. Sightings of humpback whales feeding near Eden, including the sighting of Kiah, have changed that opinion. The proportion of whales that we've observed engaged in feeding off the coast of Eden has varied significantly from year to year, but in some years, the number of animals feeding is a significant proportion of those passing through. This type of "opportunistic" feeding appears to be a high priority for adult females (possibly newly pregnant), mothers with newborn calves, and sub-adults.

Your adoption of Kiah will allow our research team to continue making new discoveries about the humpback whales of Australia and other parts of the Pacific. We will keep you informed of any new sightings of Kiah in the future. Thank you for your support.

Kiah sighting map