I had promised some students to write about the whales. Today is the day, because I have just come back from a walk along our beautiful cliff path and I have counted at least 10 whales very close to the shoreline. I believe more people need to see and experience these gentle giants, which live in our oceans. I therefore decided to share some info and photos with you.
Some facts about the Southern Right Whales:
- Adults are 13 to 16 metres long
- Newborn are 4,5 to 6 metres long
- Adult weight; 40.000 to 75.000 kgs (this is the weight of two large fire trucks)
- Newborn weight; +1000kgs (this is the weight of a small car)
- Heart weight; 1000 kgs
- Tongue weight; up to 5.500 kgs
- Penis length; up to 3 metres
- Tail width up to 6 metres
- Pectoral flippers up to 2,2 metres
- Sexual maturity 8 - 11 years
- Gestation; 11 - 13 months, a female will give birth every 3 to 5 years
- Calves are weaned at 8 months old
- They can live up to 100 years
- They feed on the smallest creatures, tiny Plankton, krill and crustaceans
Southern Right Whales are found in the Southern Oceans where most of their feeding takes place. During mating and calving they can be found in South America, off the costs of Chile and Argentina, Africa, off the coasts of Namibia and South Africa as well as Australia and New Zealand. They usually come to our shores from July to November and Hermanus is one of the worlds centres for whale watching.
They spend their feeding time in cold water, near Antarctica and come to warmer waters during calving and mating.
There are also other whales in our waters, when lucky you could see a Blue-, Fin-, Humpback-, Sperm- or Brydes Whale. We have also spotted Orcras here.
Whales nearly became extinct, due to whaling. By the 1920 there were as few as 300 whales remaining, fortunately worldwide protection was given and the population stands now by approximately 15.000. Unfortunately, mankind remains by far the greatest threat to these species. The two leading causes are being struck by a ship and entanglement in fishing gear.
And now for some essential vocabulary:
- Breach - Propelling itself out of the water
- Lobtailing - Slapping of tail on the water surface
- Spy hopping - raising the head vertically out of the water, the eye must be visible
- Lunging - braking the surface in a forward motion
- Blow hole - blows a cloud of moisture out of two nostrils at the top of the head (V- shaped)
I hope you enjoyed this short intro and the photos, which were taken in the last couple of weeks.