Humpback Whale Encounters - Year 2000

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Click here for Jen's exciting narrative of swimming with Humpbacks
Humpback breaching

Vava'u, Tonga


Humpback whales, Megaptera noveanglia, are the most spectacular whales to watch because of their incredible aerobatic displays.


Humpback Calf
Vavau, Tonga

This calf, who we named "Junior" , was one of the last ones to leave Tonga for Antarctica. It played with us for over 3 hours while it's mother watched carefully from below.

Humpback calf underwater


Humpback fluke

Rarotonga, Cook Islands

When raising the tail flukes this high out of the water, the whale is typically taking a deeper, longer dive.


Diving Calf
Vava'u, Tonga

A Calf dives down to join it's mother taking a nap about 15 feet (5m) below.

Humpback diving



Humpback fluke in Cook Islands

Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Whales are usually identified by the pattern of markings on the underside and edges of the tail flukes.


Pec Slap
Rarotonga, Cook Islands

The Humpback Whale has the largest appendage of the animal kingdom; it's pectoral flipper, or "pec" which can reach 15' (5m) in length. This whale is "pec-slapping", banging it's huge pec on the surface of the water. This is thought to be a means of communicating with other whales.
Humpback pectoral flipper
Humpback dorsal fin
Mammalian Mass
Rarotonga, Cook Islands

At 30 to 40 tons and 20X the size of an elephant, the Humpback Whale is truly a huge mammal. The scars on the back of this one are from "Cookie Cutter Sharks" which take circular bites from the whales as free snacks! I guess we could compare it with being bitten by a mosquito!
Vava'u, Tonga

Nothing is more exhilarating than seeing a Humpback shooting clean out of the water.
Wjale breaching in Tonga
Whale fluke with barnacles
Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Barnacles attach themselves to the leading edges of the whales flukes.
Beveridge Reef

A two year old Humpback cruises in the shallow coral lagoon of a remote seamount.
Humpback juvenile underwater
Whale research

Collecting Skin Samples
Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Nan Hauser and Hoyt Peckham of the Center for Cetacean Research (CCR) , collect Humpback skin samples for DNA analysis. This is used to trace the genetic history of whale populations.

A Humpback whale sheds it's skin every 36 hours. When swimming in the wake of a whale the sloughed skin often appears like "snowfall" in the water.