The Humpback Whales Collection

Shot by Underwater Cinematographer Roger Horrocks.

Available in 4K+ RAW as licensable material.

Close-up of Humpback Duo Rolling Overhead
Location

Cape Town

Duration

00:42

Close-up of Humpback Passing By Camera
Location

Cape Town

Duration

00:45

Close-up of Humpbacks Feeding on Krill
Location

Cape Town

Duration

00:32

Drifting through a Pod of Humpback Whales
Location

Cape Town

Duration

00:40

Duo of Humpback Whales Drifting Past Camera
Location

Cape Town

Duration

01:11

Full Shot of Humpback Pod Playing
Location

Cape Town

Duration

00:57

About the Species

Humpback whales inhabit all major oceans worldwide. Although deemed the same species, there are 16 different populations. Aside from the remote Arabian Sea population, all embark on tremendous journeys each year to migrate between their feeding and their calving and breeding grounds. Their feeding grounds are accentuated by icy cold and productive waters, where krill and plankton thrive. On the other hand, their calving, breeding, and nursing grounds comprise more Tropical environments. Some Humpback populations travel over 8,000 kilometres for their seasonal migration.

Biology

Physical Traits

  • The average adult Humpback whale reaches 11-15 metres in length and 25-30 tonnes in weight.
  • Humpbacks have a few distinct characteristics that set them apart. Their characteristic Hump (dorsal fin) has a knobby shape and is lowly situated.
  • Their colour varies from white to blue-grey and they typically have knobs (called Tubercles) toward the ends of their flippers (pectoral fins) and on the ends of their jaws.
  • Their tails (Flukes) are broad and serrated. The serrated trailing edge is important for identification because, like a human's fingerprint, the pattern is unique for each individual.

Reproduction and Lifespan

  • Humpbacks give live birth and have a lengthy gestation period (11-12 months).
  • Calves ordinarily travel with their mothers, relying on their milk for about seven months post birth and residing in shallower waters to ensure safer conditions while both gain the required weight and strength to embark on the calves' first grand migration.
  • The average Humpback whale lives to about 45-50 years of age.

Behaviour

Communication

  • Humpbacks are notorious for their long, intricate, and ever-evolving songs.
  • Only the males sing, leading scientists to suspect that these chants are executed to charm and attract a mate.
  • Humpbacks also communicate and socialise via clicks, whistles, and other audio signals, despite the fact that they do not have vocal cords.
  • Other potential means of communication include the sounds generated from slapping, breaching, and splashing.

Predators and Prey

  • Given that Humpbacks are among the largest creatures in the sea, adult Humpbacks have practically no significant predators. Juvenile Humpbacks, however, fall prey to killer whales and larger sharks.
  • Humpbacks are a baleen whale species. This means that they are filter feeders and feed by taking in up to 5,000 gallons of seawater, only to force it back out and capture their sustenance with their baleen plates. What stays is a nutritious and delicious lot of Krill, small fish, plankton, and the occasional Mollusc.
  • Feeding predominately occurs during the summer, when they stock up to live off of their fat reserves during their winter migrations and mating season.

Full Shot of Humpback Whale Duo Approaching Boat
Location

Cape Town

Duration

00:08

Full Shot of Humpback Whales Passing by Boat
Location

Cape Town

Duration

00:20

Full Shot of Juvenile Humpback Whale Surfacing
Location

Cape Town

Duration

00:12

Full Shot of Large Pod Of Humpback Whales Spouting
Location

Cape Town

Duration

00:28

Full Shot of Large Pod Of Humpback Whales Spouting
Location

Cape Town

Duration

00:24

Full Shot of Large Pod of Humpback Whales Spouting
Location

Cape Town

Duration

00:20

Viability

Threats and Climate Change

  • Historically, Humpback populations were hunted to the brink of extinction. Although hunting does not occur at the same scale and populations are on the mend, these gentle giants grapple with a myriad of threats nevertheless.
  • Most threats are human-induced and include (but are not limited to) vessel strikes, fishing gear entanglement, plastic, chemical and pollution ingestion, and sound pollution. Sound pollution is especially concerning due to its not-yet-fully-understood effects on communication and predator and prey detection.
  • Climate change wreaks havoc on humpbacks. Warming sea surface temperatures are changing the conditions of their feeding and breeding grounds, therefore affecting the future of their migratory patterns and behaviours.
  • Climate Change also impacts the abundance of Krill and Plankton. In areas where sea surface temperatures are warming, and krill abundance is falling, food scarcity becomes a concern for Humpbacks.

Conservation Status

  • Fortunately, Humpback whales are officially on the IUCN list of least concern.
  • Since the ban on commercial whaling in 1986, Humpback populations have flourished and served as an inspiring success of conservation efforts.
  • Currently, many conservation measures are in place to mitigate the most prominent threats. For instance, to mitigate vessel strikes, vessel pathways are now controlled in alignment with known whale migration.

Current Research

  • Exciting research is furthering our understanding and the protection of Humpbacks.
  • Scientists have discovered a more cost-effective and efficient tool to unravel and communicate Humpback whale whereabouts, to ultimately prevent vessel strikes and better understand their migratory routes: Seabirds! Seabirds embark on similar migrations and are often found in the same areas as Humpbacks. Thus, the satellite-tagged seabirds are a brilliant indicator for up-to-date Humpback habitat identification.
  • Marine mammals face a wide array of natural and anthropogenic threats. The extent to which each threat poses to individual species (such as Humpbacks) is not fully understood. To assess the impact of individual threats on Humpback whales, researchers are measuring stress hormones (cortisol levels) in Baleen plates (structures similar to teeth) and correlating them to individual stressors.
  • Studies now highlight the importance of whale poop and its unexpected role in climate change mitigation. Like cow feces is important for healthy soil, whale feces provides nutrients (such as iron) that sustain phytoplankton (krill). Phytoplankton, which heavily relies on whale poop, sequesters carbon and produces up to half of the world's oxygen through photosynthesis.

Charisma Factor

  • Humpbacks are one of the most well-studied whale species likely due to their social nature and sea-surface charismatic displays.
  • Us humans are most amazed by their breaching (when they thrust more than half of their 25-30 tonne bodies out of the ocean, generating a mind-blowing splash).
  • They are also notorious for their blows. Juvenile humpbacks can only stay underwater for 3-5 minutes at a time, while an adult Humpback can dive for 45 consecutive minutes. Thus, they frequently reside at the surface where they exhale and generate a misty water-vapor 'puff' in which we identify as a blow.
  • Other common behaviours that Humpbacks exhibit include spy hopping, slapping, various types of feeding methods (such as bubble net feeding or lunge feeding).

Myths and Legends

  • Throughout history, Humans have glorified, dreaded, and depended on Whales.
  • Due to their global distribution, ancient cultures worldwide have diverse experiences of whales and thus, contrasting Folklore.
  • There are grim biblical stories such as the christian story of Jonah, the man who was swallowed by a whale.
  • Native Americans carved horrific images into totem poles, depicting them as deadly sea monsters. Other Native American cultures and tribes relied on whales to sustain their people and viewed whaling as a noble pursuit.
  • The Australian aboriginals thought the presence of a whale to be divine and representative of the presence of an ancestor.
  • In ancient Chinese cultures, a whale-like monster called Yu Kiang was believed to be the ruler of the ocean. With human hands and feet, Yu Kiang was rumored to be 1000s of metres long.
  • A legend of Ancient East Africa tells a tale about a King (Sulemani) who asked god to give him the ability to feed the world. According to the tale, this angered god and led him to dispatch a whale out of the ocean to eat all of Sulemani's crops, to teach him that his desire was not possible.

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The Humpback Whales Collection

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