Achieving Symbiotic Harmony
During the months of May through to November, hump back whales migrate from Antarctica on the onset of winter. The whales migrate along the east coast of south Africa through the coastal waters of Durban and through to the warmer waters of Mozambique and Madagascar to breed and give birth. Hump back whales migrate about five thousand kilometers on average, one of the longest migratory journeys of any mammal on earth.
Due to the numerous numbers of whales migrating along Durban’s Coast in 1907 a Norwegian whaling station was established. This whaling station became the largest land based whaling station in the world. It was later closed down in 1975 and its remains can still be viewed off the Durban bluff. At the time there were an estimated 340 hump back whales migrating along the Durban coast. Since the closure of the whaling station there are now estimated to be over 7000 hump back whales migrating.
Similarly the number of Southern Right Whales has increased to over a thousand whales off the coast of southern Africa, boasting a growth of seven percent per year. At this rate the population is expected to double in the next ten years making Durban a premium whale tour destination. Other Whales that can be seen along the Durban Coast line are Sperm, Minke and Bryde.
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Whales “noses”, or blowholes, are on the top of their heads, so that they can just barely break the surface to breathe without rising too far out of the water.
Breaching is often seen in rough seas. It is possible that a breach allows the whale to breathe in air that is not close to the surface and full of spray, or that they use breaching to communicate when the noise of the ocean would mask acoustic signals.
A whale’ tail is called its flukes. The flukes are used in swimming. Flukes are also used in lobtailing, an activity in which some whales stick their tail out of the water into the air, swing it around, and then slap it on the water’s surface.
Lob-Taling & Flipper Slapping
Some suggest that lobtailing in humpback whales is a means of foraging. The hypothesis is that the loud noise causes fish to become frightened, thus tightening their school together, making it easier for the humpback to feed on them.
It is thought that whales either undertake this activity to catch the wind and ‘sail’ through the water, or as a method to cool down
Most oceanographers say spyhopping simply lets the animals get a better view of activity near the water’s surface