Humpback Whale breaching in Tory Channel
Paul Davidson has been filming and interviewing the old whalers, volunteers and DOC staff for several years as they go about their whale survey work. He is nearing completion of an extended version of his documentary “Once Were Whalers”, which will be released 2016.
UNIQUE WHALE SCENES IN TORY CHANNEL
Paul Davidson has been filming and interviewing the old whalers, volunteers and DOC staff for several years as they go about their whale survey work. He is nearing completion of an extended version of his documentary “Once Were Whalers”, which will be released 2014.
“Awesome” is how Marlborough filmmaker Paul Davidson describes some of the humpback whale scenes he shot during a week at Tory Channel with the annual DOC whale survey, last year in 2012. These included spectacular shots of a breaching whale leaping out of the water and some poignant scenes as DOC staff struggled to clear a young humpback which had died and drifted on to rocks in the historic whaling bay of Whekenui.
The Department of Conservation is in the ninth year of a ten-year survey of humpback whales, which pass through Cook Strait in June and July on their annual migration from Antarctica to warmer Pacific waters. This year plenty of whales were sighted in the first few days of the survey, and the DOC crew got good ID photographs and blubber samples from most of them. Bad weather has slowed things down a little in the second week.
Very unusually, a number of whales were seen making their spectacular “breaches”, where they leap almost completely out of the water, landing back with a loud smack and huge splash. Nadine Bott, the whale survey project manager, says that while this is common in their warmer breeding waters around the Pacific Islands, it is rarely reported in Cook Strait. “No one knows for sure why they do it”, says Nadine. “It could be a warning to stay away, a means to attract attention, or just a playful teenager.”
The dead humpback was a young female, estimated to be about eighteen months old. Even at that age it was almost ten metres long and weighed more than twenty tons. So it was quite a job to move it from the rocks. “It was close to the entrance to Tory Channel,” says Nadine, “and likely to become a hazard to navigation when it floated back. We had to move it to somewhere more safe, take measurements and samples, then dispose of it properly.” The dead whale was eventually roped around the tail and towed to the beach at nearby Okukari, where it was buried with the help of the Heberley family, a family with a long and rich whaling heritage.