Researcher spots whale of time off Port MacDonnell coast

Researcher spots whale of time off Port MacDonnell coast

Aveteran whale researcher observed a rare blue whale mating ritual off the coast of Port MacDonnell late last month.

Blue Whale Study chief executive and senior research scientist Pete Gill said this was only the second time in his 26 years of studying blue whales that he had seen such a display despite participating in over 280 aerial surveys.

Dr Gill said it was during one of these aerial surveys several weeks ago that he saw the rare display of racing behaviour.

“The assumption is that it is a sexually mature female being courted by two males who are competing to be her favourite male. This is incredible behaviour where the female is totally calling the shots,” he 

“She is out in front, you can see her changing course so it is not like she is trying to escape from them because every so often she will slow down for a rest and they will both slow down and just follow along behind her.

“Then suddenly she will be off again and they will be off.

“They are both trying to stay with her but also boof each other out of the way.

“These are animals that weigh 120-140 tonnes that are shoulder charging each other and pushing each other with their tails and the whole being is moving at 15-20 knots which is like 20 to 30kph.

“They are racing through the water going around in circles doing these big changes of direction.

“They are not heading anywhere, it is all about this interaction between the three whales.”

Dr Gill described the behaviour as “probably the most spectacular animal behaviour there is”.

“Seeing it is a real privilege. Try to think of any bigger animals acting more vigorously, you cannot, it’s not possible,” he 

“Blue whales chasing each other is the biggest spectacle there is in the animal world and we were very fortunate to be there at the time.

“It is extremely rare, I will be lucky to see it again in my lif time.

“It is sort of like a reward.

“You put in all these hours and years of hard work and every so often you just see something that makes you go ‘wow’ … and this was one of those times.

“We just sort of circled them for nine minutes and took many photos and then left them alone and they were still racing when we moved on.”

Dr Gill said despite a massive upwelling season for the Bonney Coast Upwelling, it has been a quiet year for blue whales in the area leaving researchers with questions.

“We cannot quite explain that yet but there will be a reason for it,” he said.

“We have had massive amounts of nutrients come into the system this year but just for some reason we are not seeing lots of krill which is the food that blue whales prey on.

“It could just be that with such a big upwelling season we just have got too much cold water coming in and not enough warm in.

“Sometimes you just need things to slow down and warm up a bit.”

The blue whales will now migrate from their summer feeding grounds in the Southern Ocean to winter breeding grounds in Indonesian waters.

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