Where have all the whales gone this year?

2 September, 2015

whale watching near Victor Harbor

Have you always wanted to experience whale watching? See the whales for yourself in Victor Harbor. Do you know how the Southern Wright Whales grow to 18 metres in length and weigh up to 80 tonnes? They are huge! You will definitelty enjoy whale watching and other things to do Victor Harbor

As the whale watching season comes to a close in Victor Harbor, there has been a lot of discussion on why there has been so few whales sighted in the Victor Harbor area.

The Southern Wright Whale is a baleen whale, these whales are very dark grey or black with the occasional white patches on the belly. That being said, a few years ago I did see a white whale calf that was born off of Victor Harbor, a complete albino. This was rare.

Where have the whales gone this year? 

I have been told that the sighting frequency goes in 3 year cycles. This year however bucked that trend as we had a great year, an ok year, an average year and now a less than average year. Why? Well the question is being asked a lot in our area and one of the most common comments is that it must be the seismic testing that is happening off the coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula. Now I am not an expert on these things by any means so I am not going to comment, however it does seem like there is a strange coincidence.

All that being said, there were still amazing sightings this year with a mother and calf hanging around the bay in Victor Harbor and great sightings off of Bashams beach in Middleton. I had a surf lesson in South Australia not log ago and imagine the shock I got when around 70 metres away, a whale popped up through the waves, you coud hear it making noises and see the spray from the blow hole. It was amazing.

Whale watching information 

Commercial whaling commenced in the 1820's in Victor Harbor and around 75% of the Southern Wright Whale population was decimated between 1835 and 1845 after which, the industry collapsed. It wasn't until a further 90 years on that they were finally protected. Now there is a very small 12,000 Southern Wright Whale population which is down from 100,000 when the whaling commenced. It is said that the population is increasing by 7% now which is fantastic, however this year, we did not see a lot.

The Southern Wright whale got its name as it was the "right" whale to catch as it floated when it was harpooned and died. It was easy to catch because of its slow swimming and has provided large amounts of valuable products, in particular oil for illumination and lubrication.

All baleen whales have two blow-holes, however in most species the two merge into one. The southern wright's two blow holes remain separate, producing a distinctive V-shaped blow, a cloud of vapour blown out when the whale surfaces to breathe.

Some Facts:

Southern right whale facts
Length Adults: 14m to 18m; Calves: 5m to 6m at birth
Weight Adults: up to 80 tonnes; Calves: 1 to 1.5 tonnes at birth
Gestation: 11 to 12 months
Weaning age: 11 to 12 months
Calving interval: generally 3 years
Physical maturity age: unknown; Length: 16m
Sexual maturity age: 9 to 10 years
Length: 12m to 13m
Mating season: July to August
Calving season: June to August
Cruising speed: 3km/h
Blow pattern: V-shaped bushy blow, up to 5m
Protected since 1935

Southern wright whales feed mainly on copepods, krill, mysids and plankton, among other tiny crustaceans. They are baleen whales - they don't have any teeth, and feed by filtering food through 220-260 baleen plates which hang from each side of their upper jaws.

If you would like to see whales, I absolutely recommend you come to the Fleurieu Peninsula region and visit Middleton through Victor Harbor and check out the whale watching hot spots along the way.

Most popular spots are Bashams beach, Port Elliot headland and from Victor Harbor including the Bluff. If you are game, why not try our surf lessons where we sometimes see the whales off the beach at Middleton!

The other excellent way to see them is on a whale watching tour, we offer these through our friends in Victor Harbor and you can take a 1 hour 15 minute whale watching boat cruise for $60. What a great deal.

You can  also check out our Big Duck boat tours in Victor Harbor.

For more information please contact our friendly team and in the mean time, get down to the Fleurieu Peninsula and see the whales for yourself!

You can also check out the SA whale centre.

See you in the water,

Photo courtesy of tourismvictorharbor.com - Thanks!

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