Which Whale is Which? – Southern Right Whale

Friday 19th August 2011

When you take a look at most Australian Whale Watching websites, you are sure to see pictures of Humpback Whales breaching out of the water or showing off their impressive tail flukes as they go on a sounding dive. Humpback whales are the most common whale to encounter on the Eastern coastline of Australia, how ever they are not the only species of whale we see on our cruises.

Over the last few weeks Port Stephens and Nelson Bay has seen an influx of visits with Southern Right Whales. These whales are highly endangered and scientists estimate there may only be 5,000 (five thousand) left in the entire world! Last season (2010) Imagine had visits with around 6 Southern Right Whales, including some newborn calves. This season so far we have had visits with at least 8 Southern Right Whales, including calves and we have heard from the other companies of around 6 more while our boat has been out of the water! Hopefully this means will we get to see a lot more of these friendly whales in the coming years.

The most distinguishing feature of Southern right whales is a series of natural growths called callosities on the front of the rostrum or head. The largest of these callosities is called the ‘bonnet’. Callosities are also found on the whale’s chin, on the sides of the head, on the lower lips, above the eyes, and near the blowholes.

Southern right whale (Eubalaena australis)

Length: Adults: 14 m to 18 m;

Calves: 5 m to 6 m at birth

Weight: Adults: up to 80 tonnes;

Calves: 1 to 1.5 tonnes at birth

Gestation: 11 to 12 months

Weaning age: 11 to 12 months

Calving interval: Generally 3 years

Sexual maturity: Age: 8 to 10 years

Mating season: July to August

Calving season: June to August

Cruising speed: 3 km/hr

Blow pattern: V-shaled bushy blow to 5 m

Protected: Since 1935

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