Newfoundland Travel - Humpback Whale

Humpback whales are amazing mammals and a species that is of great interest to me. I love to watch them blow, surface, tail slap, and breach from the coast of my home community of Pouch Cove, Newfoundland, Canada. The more I see of these mammals, the more I want to learn. Based on direct observation, speaking with others, and doing online research, I discovered fascinating details about humpback whales that I would love to share with you. #humpback #whale #newfoundland #oceanlife #mammal

Humpback whale spraying water and exposing its tail fluke as it dives off coast of Newfoundland, Canada
Humpback whale spraying water and exposing its tail fluke as it dives off coast of Newfoundland, Canada

Humpback whales have a life expectancy of 45-50 years but some have been known to live for up to 80 years. Unlike many love stories in the wild, this species does not mate for life and the male may have many sexual partners in one breeding season. #whale #humpbackwhalelifeexpectancy #humpbackwhalesocial

Mother humpback with her calf near the coast of Pouch Cove, Newfoundland, Canada
Mother humpback with her calf near the coast of Pouch Cove, Newfoundland, Canada

The female humpback whale is larger than the male, weighing about 45 tons and reaching a length of about 49 feet. From a distance, it is hard to distinguish the sex of a humpback whale as the male's sexual organs are tucked inside a slit on the whale's ventral side. However, if you see a mature humpback with a calf nearby, it suggests that the adult is a female because the mother and calf stay together for about one year after the calf's birth and they share quite a strong bond. Male humpback whales, on the other hand, do not typically remain with the family. #whale #humpbackwhalepod #whalepod #whalefamily #whalesize #humpbackwhaleappearance

With its pectoral fins extended, this humpback whale breaches in clear view of the coast of Pouch Cove, Newfoundland
With its pectoral fins extended, this humpback whale breaches in clear view of the coast of Pouch Cove, NL

The physical appearance of a humpback whale is quite spectacular. Its pectoral flippers are quite long, measuring about 15 feet and extending about 1/3 the length of their body. #pectoralfin #whalefin

Humpback whale pectoral fin slapping near the coast of Pouch Cove, Newfoundland, Canada
Humpback whale pectoral fin slapping near the coast of Pouch Cove, Newfoundland, Canada

Among other uses, the humpback whales use their fins to defend against predators, to help regulate their body temperatur and to steer and stabilize their bodies as they glide through ocean waters. #pectoralfin #whale #humpbackwhale #breach #whalebreach #humpbackwhaleflipperpurpose #flippering

As this humpback whale surfaces, head up, the tubercles are visible on its head
As this humpback whale surfaces, head up, the tubercles are visible on its head

An interesting feature found alongside the humpback's mouth are round knobs known as tubercles. These tubercles are much like whale whiskers as they contain a hair filament that enables the whale to detect information about its surroundings. #whaleturercle #whalehead #whalesurfacing #tubercle

The dual blowholes are seen in this whale as it surfaces, head up, in the north Atlantic ocean on the coast of Newfoundland
The dual blowholes are seen in this whale as it surfaces, head up, in the north Atlantic ocean on the coast of NL

Centrally on the whale's head, you can see two blowholes. These are essential to allow the whale to breath. Impressively, humpback whales can inhale as much as 90% oxygen from the air through their blowholes (in comparison to humans who inhale an average of only 5% oxygen with each breath). The high volume of oxygen inhaled allows them to oxygenate their lungs and hold their breath for up to an hour. Under normal circumstances, humpback whales tend to only hold their breath for about 5 minutes at a time. A musculature flap seals off the blow hole and prevents water from getting in and air from escaping as the whale submerges under the water. #blowhole #whaleblowhole #whale #humpbackwhale #whalebreathing

This humpback whale has barnacles attached to the left side of its mouth.
This humpback whale has barnacles attached to the left side of its mouth.

Some portions of the humpback whale's body may be covered in barnacles. These barnacles are usually harmless and can provide a source of natural protection from predators. If the barnacles cause skin irritation, the whale can rub its body against hard objects such as rocks to remove them. #barnacle #whalebarnacle

This humpback whale's dorsal fin is seen as it splashes in the north Atlantic waters in Newfoundland, Canada
This humpback whale's dorsal fin is seen as it splashes in the north Atlantic waters in Newfoundland, Canada

Along the back of the humpback whale there is a dorsal fin which is small and stubby in comparison to its body size. When the whale is bending to dive, the small hump in front of the dorsal fin becomes more pronounced and is more clearly visible. The dorsal fin enhances the whale's balance and to allows for controlled swimming motion as it glides through the waters. #whale #dorssalfin #fin #whalefin #humpbackwhale

Humpback whale displaying its tail fluke as it dives off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada
Humpback whale displaying its tail fluke as it dives off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada

At the far end of its body is the humpback whale's tail. Did you know that the whale's tail is the strongest muscle of any mammal? It is quite useful as a defense against predators, including Orca whales. #humpbackwhale #whalewatching #whaletale #tailfluke

Each humpback whale has a unique appearance to its tail fluke as can be seen in this pair diving off the coast of Bay Bulls, NL
Each humpback whale has a unique appearance to its tail fluke as can be seen in this pair diving off the coast of NL

The tail is divided into two lobes known as flukes. Impressively, each humpback whale's fluke has a distinctive appearance that, much like a human fingerprint, are unique to each whale. If you are interested, why not submit your tail fluke images to the link below to identify your whale and to receive information about its migratory pattern? #humpbackwhalemigration #whalefluke


Beside a surfacing humpback whale is the "footprint" of another humpback who has just left the area
Beside a surfacing humpback whale is the "footprint" of another humpback who has just left the area

As you visit the ocean in hopes of spotting a whale, keep an eye out for a greasy looking circle atop the ocean. This is most likely a humpback whale's footprint and signifies the spot where a humpback whale had, moments earlier, propelled itself forward movement through the water. #whalefootprint

Also remain alert for signs of light shades moving underwater. These may be the reflections of its ventral grooves along the humpback whale's tummy as it nears the ocean surface. #ventralgroove #whaleventralgroove

Pod of humpback whales clearly visible from land near the coast of Pouch Cove, Newfoundland, Canada
Pod of humpback whales clearly visible from land near the coast of Pouch Cove, Newfoundland, Canada

With the exception of mamma, calf and perhaps an escort, humpback whales do not travel in large pods. However, they sometimes form associations when in the cooler waters in their feeding zones. When the humpbacks are in warm waters during the mating season, there may be several males in close association with a female as they compete for pairing with her. #humpbackwhalepod #whalepod

Humpback whale feeding near the coast of Pouch Cove, Newfoundland
Humpback whale feeding near the coast of Pouch Cove, Newfoundland

Most times, when humpbacks are seen along the coast of the feeding ground, such as Newfoundland, they are feeding. Did you know that humpback whales are baleen whales (meaning that they have no teeth but, instead, 300-400 bristly filters lining their mouth?) #baleenwhale #baleen

Humpback whale spyhopping (people watching)
The ventral grooves on the humpback's body create a white colored cast in the water

As the humpback whale feeds, it plunges through the fish-rich waters. Simultaneously, ventral grooves extending from its mouth to its belly expand to hold the high volume of water and fish entering its mouth. Fish are trapped in the whale's mouth but water is permitted to filter out of the mouth through the baleens. Not all sea water gets released back to the sea through filtration. The remainder is expelled through its two blowholes on its head. Humpback whales will eat an average of 3000 pounds of food daily. #whalefeeding #baleen

Most humpback whales feed by plunge feeding. However, some feed by bubble net feeding. Although I have never seen the later, bubble feeding involves a pod of whales engaging in a cooperative group feeding method. This is well demonstrated in the video above. #bubblenetfeeding #humpbackwhalefeeding #humpback #whale

Humpback whale, surfacing, in the ocean waters of Newfoundland, Canada
Humpback whale spyhopping (people watching) in the ocean waters of Newfoundland, Canada

Humpback whales are most commonly seen in Newfoundland in the summer months (mid June through mid September) but sometimes they stay beyond these timelines. Their migration to cooler waters such as Newfoundland is timed to the migratory pattern of fish (in the case of Newfoundland, chiefly the capelin). After the feeding season ends, the humpback whales return to warm waters to mate and give birth. During calfing months, they typically do not eat but, instead, live off the blubber which has been deposited during their feeding season. #whalemigration #humpbackwhale

Humpback whale gliding through ocean waters as seen from the coastline of Pouch Cove, Newfoundland, Canada
Humpback whale gliding through ocean waters as seen from the coastline of Pouch Cove, Newfoundland, Canada

A female humpback whale reaches sexual maturity by age 6-10. Males are vocal during the mating season in efforts to secure receptive mates and, in fact, will seek out multiple mates each season. The female can give birth to one live calf every 2-3 years and does so in the warmer ocean waters. The gestation period is about 12 months and, after birth, the calf will stay with its mother for 6-12 months. #humpbackwhalegestation

At birth, a calf is about 15 feet long and weighs about 1500 pounds. In its first year of life, the calf will double in length. The mother's milk has a high fat content (about 50%) that is essential for the calf's continued growth. A calf will consume 150 gallons of its mother's milk every day! The mother will lose up to 1/3 of her total body weight before returning north to feed. The young humpback whale will continue growing until it reaches about 10 years of age. #humpbackwhalecalf #humpbackwhalecalfnutrition

Humpback whale "spyhopping" (people watching) guests aboard Gatherall's boat tour in Bay Bulls, Newfoundland
Humpback whale "spyhopping" (people watching) guests aboard Gatherall's boat tour in Bay Bulls, Newfoundland

The migration of the humpback whale is the longest migration of any mammal on earth. Many tourists time their holidays to Newfoundland with the arrival of whales and hope to see one during their travel. Likewise, many humpbacks enjoy the thrill of "spyhopping" (people watching) and will pop their heads out of the water and watch people as people are watching them! #spyhopping #humpbackwhalespyhopping #tourismnl #newfoundland #newfoundlandtourism

Humpback whale breaching, clearly visible from shore, in Pouch Cove, Newfoundland, Canada
Humpback whale breaching, clearly visible from shore, in Pouch Cove, Newfoundland, Canada

Imagine the excitement when, for the first time, you see a humpback whale flippering (flipper slapping), lobtailing (tail slapping), and breaching! Many tourists (and locals) book a whale watching tour boat to increase their chances of seeing these majestic mammals in the open sea. There are many charters from which to select, Gatherall's puffin and whale watching boat tour being one such company. #lobtailing #flippering #breaching #whalebreaching #whaleflippering #whalelobtailing


Humpback whale diving as it approaches nearer to guests aboard Gatherall's boat tour to put on a "show"
Humpback whale diving as it approaches nearer to guests aboard Gatherall's boat tour to put on a "show"

Why do humpbacks perform these acrobatics? There are many theories to this question and perhaps no single answer . Here are some of the theories I have found:

  1. To communicate with other humpbacks regarding the presence of food or danger in the area

  2. To enhance food supply by causing fish in the area to startle and gather

  3. To express joy

  4. To engage in fun and social engagement

  5. To promote cardiovascular health and muscular strength and coordination. Some believe that, during the feeding season, the calf must be taught to deep dive to prepare for its long migration back to warmer waters in the fall of the year and that lung capacity and muscular strength is enhanced through breaching behavior

  6. To display dominance and health

  7. To enhance digestion

  8. To rid the body of barnacles and other parasites

Humpback whale fin slapping near the coast of Pouch Cove, Newfoundland, Canada, at sunset
Humpback whale fin slapping near the coast of Pouch Cove, Newfoundland, Canada, at sunset

No matter what the cause, watching these amazing mammals perform their acrobatic stunts is a thrill to behold. #whalesocializing #whalebreaching #whalelobtailing #whaleflippering

The main threat to humpback whales existence is man (ship strikes and entanglement in fishing nets and gear).

Humpback whale breaching along the coast of Signal Hill, Newfoundland, Canada
Humpback whale breaching along the coast of Signal Hill, Newfoundland, Canada

Since the ban on commercial whaling in1986, humpback whales are no longer an endangered species as they once were and, in many areas of the world, they are once again beginning to thrive.


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