Humpback whales may grow up to 55 feet long, with pectoral flippers covering roughly a third of their bodies, according to Whale and Dolphin Conservation. They are known for their outstanding acrobatic talents and lyrical whale songs. These massive yet agile whales smack the water with their flippers and tails, creating stunning splashes that captivate whale watchers.
Seeing these magnificent whales breach the water is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that whale watchers off Australia’s east coast are getting earlier than normal this season, as a robust humpback whale population migrates north from Antarctica to the Great Barrier Reef, according to The Guardian. The “humpback highway” is the name given to the migration path.
Sightings have already been reported off the coasts of Sydney, Byron Bay, Merimbula, the Gold Coast, and other areas along the whales’ migration route, according to Oceania Project Director Dr. Wally Franklin, in an early start to the season, which generally peaks in late June or early July.
“About 20 years ago, we’d see the first one or two whales coming through around Easter time,” said professor Mike Noad, director of The University of Queensland’s Centre for Marine Science, according to The Guardian. “At Easter time, one or two becomes 16 or 30.”
The humpback whale’s situation was very different not long ago. According to Noad, whaling wiped out nearly all of the humpback whale population, leaving only about 300 in eastern Australia until commercial whaling was stopped in the 1960s. Noad estimates that there are roughly 40,000 humpback whales in the area right now.
Lead Image: A humpback whale breaches in Gold Coast, Australia in 2016. Jason McCawley / Getty Images.
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