Humpback Whale

Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)  

Length: 12 – 16 m

Weight: 30 – 50 tonnes

Reaching lengths of around 50ft, Humpback whales are one of the most  enigmatic animals on the Planet. It is a unique and humbling experience to come eye to eye with such a creature, for its sheer elegance, size and grace cannot be fully appreciated from above water. It is also one of the most acrobatic of  the  cetaceans,  performing powerful  ‘tail-lobbing’, ‘flipper-slapping’ and full breath-taking breaches.

A humpback's tail fluke is its personal signature and scientists are able to identify individuals by fluke colour, shape and pattern.  At approximately 15ft wide, it is proudly presented prior to a dive that can reach 200m deep. Also at around 15ft is the humpback whales beautiful pectoral fins, the longest of any whale and responsible for its Latin name Megaptera. 

We can easily distinguish which region a humpback is from by the dorsal colour of the pectoral fin: black signifying the Pacific region and white being the Atlantic. During our Swimming with humpbacks in the Silver Bank, Dominican Republic we are grateful for this, as the fins brilliance makes the whales easier to spot from our inflatable boats and in the tropical waters the white fins appear a truly stunning turquoise blue !

Also 15ft long are the baleen plates of a humpbacks mouth, an evolved means of straining krill and small fish from its feeding grounds in Antarctica and the Arctic. In these feeding areas we can see a plethora of whales, particularly on our whale watching expeditions later in the season in Antarctica when humpbacks are plentiful and approachable.

Contact our Marine Scientist to discuss our whale watching options

Humpbacks are also famous for their whale song. Songs between  populations  vary  enormously  and  each  population’s  song  changes  gradually over  a  period  of  several  years.  Each lasts  typically  between  15  -  20  minutes  and  is  then repeated for several hours. Singing is just one means of communication and it can be heard for thousands of miles. Initially only thought to be practised in the warm breeding grounds, we have taken such recordings with our scientific teams in Antarctica, to everyone's delight.

Once fully nourished, the humpbacks of breeding age make one of the longest migrations of any mammal, from feeding grounds to breeding and nursing grounds such as Silver Bank. It is here, in these clear, warm waters that for many years we have been privileged to take guests to swim alongside nursing mothers and playful calves.

Often in the breeding grounds, we don’t have to use our hydrophone to hear the whales melancholy song -we can sometimes just float on your back on the water or even just lie in your cabin to hear their famous melody!

Click below to learn about swimming with humpbacks or whale watching with us on location in Antarctica and the Arctic !

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