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The Oceania Project's
Whale Research Expeditions
in Hervey Bay: 1989-2013


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Why do the Humpback Whales visit Hervey Bay?


double breach'Timantha' and her 1996 calf 'Elmo', at play in Hervey Bay. Play allows important survival skills to be passed along from mother to calf. Timantha is a regular visitor to Hervey Bay Hervey Bay is a unique stop-over on the annual migration of the Humpback Whales and has been for thousands of years.

The warm sheltered waters of Hervey Bay offer a safe haven to young whales, pregnant females and mother/calf pods before they begin their long journey to their Antarctic feeding grounds.

The bay is also an important area for social interaction. For instance, yearlings separating from their mothers, are often seen alone or trying to fit in with slightly older 'sub adult' pods. Later they may be found seeking to associate with mother/calf pods.

Mothers who have already completed the process of separation from their last season's calf, flow into the next spiral of courtship and/or mating relationships. They are often observed in large active adult pods, which may include young adult whales like 'Floppy'.

Floppy's Dorsal Fin'Floppy', a calf in 1996, was named because of the shape and flexibility of his dorsal fin. Seen again in 1997 as a yearling, 1999 as a 3 year old, 2001 as a 5 year old, 2002 as a 6 year old and 2003 as a 7 year old, 2004 as an 8 year old, 2005 as an 8 year old, 2006 as a 10 year old and 2007 as an 11 year old. An individual whale like 'Floppy' provides an opportunity to study the development and behaviour of a growing whale within a humpback social structure.
nala'Nala', in 1997 in the company of another whale was extending her fluke for long periods of time well above the water. While she repeated this behaviour the other whale remained submerged for over 30 minutes. This behaviour may part of the mating process. Trish has photographed 'Nala' with a new calf in 1992, 1996,1998,1999, 2002 and 2003. During September and October mother/calf pods move through the bay in waves, or pulses.

They will often stay for prolonged periods of time, creating an opportunity to carefully observe and photograph them.

They may be found resting or 'logging' on the surface side by side, or in extended feeding patterns which ensures that the calf gains important body fat for the long journey south.

At ease in the protected waters of Hervey Bay mothers allow their calves time to explore the area, to associate with other calves and to play.

Mothers often expend a great deal of energy teaching their calves to breach, lob-tail, pectoral-slap and head-lunge.

Although it looks like a great deal of fun, play is also an important part of the calf's natural learning process. A good strong lob-tail, or breach may be just what is needed to shake off an attacking orca or shark, the humpback's natural predators in the open ocean.

wedgewood 'Wedgewood' executes a perfect breach while her 1996 calf 'China' looks on and soon follows mum's lead. We resighted Wedgewood with a new calf in 1998 & 2002 and without a calf in 2000.
common dolphins
Common Dolphins on the bow, sleek, graceful & curious.

The Humpback Whales are often accompanied by playful pods of Bottlenose Dolphins or large groups of Common Dolphins.

We may occasionally see pods of the illusive Indopacific Humpback Dolphin and sometimes encounter a curious Minke Whale.

While the primary focus of the Expedition is Cetacea there will be time to observe and marvel at the many other life-forms we may encounter.

Other marine creatures in the area include dugongs, several species of turtle, manta and eagle rays, sharks, sea snakes and many varieties of seabirds and waders.

eagle rays
We awoke surrounded by a flock of Eagle Rays in the morning sun.

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