Thursday, August 15, 2013


That's what we counted on the Shearwater Journeys' July 27, 2013 pelagic trip departing from Half Moon Bay. For nearly the entire day, HUMPBACK WHALES, Megaptera novaengliae, were in view, often breaching or flipper or tail-slapping. 
Humpback Whales are perhaps the most charismatic of all large whales. And, this day on perfectly flat calm seas, bore that out. Above, we can see the dorsal fin which varies in shape from triangular to knobby, or falcate. The light gray areas are pigmentation much like freckles in a human. 
 Humpback Whales are known for their haunting songs. To hear one, click here.
The rostrum of the Humpback Whale is narrower than that of other baleen whales. It is covered with knob-like bumps called, tubercles. Hairs can be found in the tubercles which also cover the lower lip and front edge of the flippers. Or, as one marine biologist once told me, "Those knobs on top are what bolts the head down." Joking, of course. 
 Above, we see a view of the head, and barnacles behind the rostrum. 
The blowholes are open, above, as the whale approaches our vessel. I have a strong feeling that this is going to be a "friendly" encounter!
 Two Humpback Whales circled our boat (out of gear, engine remains on), causing crazy photographers to run from one side to the other, over and over, again.
 Repeatedly, the two whales swimming around our boat, spy-hopped. 
 With ever so much grace, they waved their long pectoral flippers in our faces. 
 Here, the stalk barnacles are flying in the wind, as the Humpback Whale swishes its pectoral flipper.
 The underside of the pectoral flipper is white, below. The Humpback Whale genus name, Megaptera, means "giant wing" as these flippers can be up to 30 percent of the body length.
 A friendly turns upside down, right next to us showing the throat pleats, and underside of the pectoral flipper. 
 These pleats allow the mouth cavity to expand when feeding. They typically have 14 to 35 throat pleats which extend all the way to the navel. 
 One of the whales comes closer yet to the vessel. We can clearly see the tubercles on the lower lip with barnacles growing on them. 
It points its head straight out of the water like a rocket and holds it there — looking at us!
 We are awestruck. Then, the second whale sticks its head out. It is just behind the first one with its head stuck out. But, the second one, uses its pectoral flippers to perform a 360 degree piroutte! Only video would have really captured that! We were, in a word, stunned! 
It is a privilege to have had such a remarkable day with Humpback Whales. 
We feel honored that they felt somehow compelled to visit our vessel. 
In addition to these magnificent Humpbacks, we also saw BLUE WHALES and one very young FIN WHALE, along with PACIFIC WHITE-SIDED DOLHINS and HARBOR and DALL'S PORPOISES. 
Humpbacks Forever,
Debi Shearwater


No comments: