Whales, Wildlife & Wilderness                                                                                                                                                 Pam & Wayne Osborn

Humpback Whales - Close Encounters


A Curious Whale


Humpbacks often engage and will approach stationary boats. These sentient mammals seem to recognise there are living creatures in the boat.  This is perhaps the opposite of being on safari in Africa where lions will only recognise a 4WD full of people as an inanimate object.


This series of images is from a single interaction over several hours with a young male humpback in Exmouth Gulf in Western Australia. He was on his own and may have been recently weaned from Mum.  The mothers just disappear when they judge  the time is right and go off to mate again. It then time for the sub-adults to make their own way in the world.


Playing Games


He repeatedly approached our stationary boat and exhaled as he got close.  We were soon covered in wet whale breath. In this image Pam is protecting the camera from a whale breath spray.

Agility and Athletic Skills


In the top image, he passes directly under the boat. In the centre image he dives under from behind and in the bottom image he lies upside down half under the boat.  Humpbacks have great body awareness and although he came very close, at no time did he touch the boat.


The rod in the centre image allows us to deploy a hydrophone or under water microphone to record whale vocalisations.


It is difficult to move off in situations like this.  We waited until he seemed to depart and carefully and slowly moved away.  However he decided that he hadn't finished with us and caught us twice again, 1 and 2 nautical miles away respectively from the original encounter.


He managed to surprise us on both occasions by approaching underwater then surfacing with a loud exhalation.