How to speak Whale
I’m having dreams about whale watching in Hervey Bay, I’m that excited about it. Dreams of me yelling out “Help him find his sssoooooonnn…” – one of Dory’s hilarious lines in Finding Nemo as a gorgeous big humpback whale swims past the boat.
While I don’t want to be ‘that’ person on deck quoting Finding Nemo lines (not that there’s anything wrong with this but it’s probably a lot cuter coming from a five year old), I do want to be able to identify the whale moves, and if I’m lucky, capture them on camera.
Whether you’re a first timer (like me) or undertake yearly migrations to Hervey Bay to see the humpbacks in action, brush up on your whale vocabulary before you head out on the water.
Think of the biggest animal you have ever seen soaring out of the water, long fins waving then plunging back down into the water with a giant SLAP! It’s a pretty impressive effort from a 40-tonne creature, powered by only two or three thumps of its tail.
It’s not just us watching the whales out there. Spy hopping is when the whales pop up to do a spot of people watching. They poke their heads out of the water like this to take a good look at what’s going on around them and to orientate themselves with the shoreline.
The Blow is often the first signal you notice when whales are in the area and can be seen up to two kilometres away. They make a grand entrance with a blow of water that shoots into the air as they come to the surface to breathe. Hopefully you’re not downwind – whale breath can be a bit smelly.
Every humpback whale has unique markings on its tail and whales are often identified by these features. Majestic and graceful for their size, humpbacks sometimes slip forward in the water leaving their tail hanging vertically in the air before diving into the calm waters.
Humpbacks are named for the raised ‘hump’ that is just above their dorsal fin. This hump is revealed as they arch their backs in preparation to dive beneath the surface.
Even after a migration tour covering 10,000 kilometres with little rest, the whales still have the energy to leap up and thump their fins and flukes up to 30 times in five minutes! And we are so glad they love to splash around in the sunshine.
Whales speak to each other by singing whale songs. Take a look (and listen) to a calf nursing with its mother in this underwater video captured off Fraser Island.
Armed with this guide on how to speak whale, I’m now daydreaming of how knowledgeable I’ll look when I show my whale watching snaps to friends… “And then I said, ‘What are you spy-hopping at me for?’”