At this time of year, The Spirit of Gold Coast team is often asked “Where are the Whales?”
Let us answer this question and share some interesting Humpback facts with you, Whale Lover!
Humpback Whales, the incredible “Gentle Giants” of the sea, spend half of the year in the Antarctic. When they are not busy traveling past our shores, the Antarctic is their home and they spend their summer eating and getting themselves ready to migrate. Migration is an important part of their life journey and they do so to mate, breed and give birth to the next generation of whales. Migration is also important because when the season changes and winter starts to fall, it is impossible for whale calves to survive after birth in the frigid temperatures of the Antarctic Ocean. Every April the Humpbacks leave the food-rich waters of Antarctica and begin the world’s longest mammal migration. This journey continues far northwards towards the warm waters of Australia, allowing the Humpbacks to enjoy the climate before returning to their home in November. On average, the Gentle Giants travel up to 10,000 kilometres each year during their migration.
Australian waters are their home during the winters, and this is where we are blessed to encounter the amazing life journey of the Gentle Giants.
Australians are often proud and excited when they see the Humpbacks approaching our waters. At this time the whales are fit, healthy and enthusiastic. They are all ready to mate or give birth. Interestingly enough, our waters are not food-rich and do not provide sustenance that the Humpbacks require. Therefore, they actually rely on their body fat to provide enough energy to survive the migration. As it is a long journey, this process makes them weak and they lose weight. If you are fortunate enough to spot a whale at the start and also at the end of the season, you will very easily see the difference in the size and shape of their body. From round and exuberant Humpbacks at the beginning of the season to slender and more placid whales traveling slowly at the end of their journey, the change is incredible to observe.
Another amazing fact about Humpback Whales is their feeding habits. Since they stock up on food to survive during the migration, they eat anywhere between 3,000 – 55,500 pounds of food per day. Interestingly, they only eat tiny crustaceans (for example, krill), plankton, and small fish.
Whales have unique hunting methods which is another amazing fact, and which makes them one of the smartest aquatic mammals. The most exciting method used by whales is the “bubble netting” method. This is a particularly impressive technique where one or two whales dive down below a shoal or swarm of prey, and then swim back slowly toward the surface in a spiral. As they swim, they gradually blow bubbles which come to the surface in a circle and drive the prey in a panic towards the center of the circle. The whales then charge straight up through the middle with their mouths wide open and get a more concentrated mouthful of food and water.
The water is then filtered out by baleen plates in their mouth, leaving just the food trapped inside. Have a look at the amazing video below, which captures and explains this phenomenon in detail… Just incredible!
Spirit of Gold Coast is very excited and is getting prepared to welcome the Gentle Giants again this year and can’t wait to give our guests a memorable experience of a lifetime.