The Prodigal Whales Return.
25th August 2014
Fine and mild conditions this afternoon with a light southerly breeze, flat seas, blue skies and ideal whale watching weather, especially now there is something to see, with the mother and calf back in the bay at Logan's beach. There have been reports in the past few days, of the mother and calf coming into the bay for short visits however today they seemed quite content to spend more time in the bay and this afternoon they were directly in front of the whale lookout and spent some time relaxing and drifting about 200 metres from the shore
At this stage of the whale watching season, sighting do become a bit more sporadic however there is a good possibility the mother and calf will stay close by for the next few weeks.
News from Portland is also a bit better with a sighting today of a single Southern Right whale at Bridgewater bay
South Australia season also seems to have gone off course completely with no reported sighting since the 21st of August - this is quite unusual as normally at this part of the season, they would be getting 6 to 10 sightings each day.
The Whale Watching centre at the Nullarbor National Park (Head of the Bight), is fairing a bit better, where they currently have 32 whale in the area plus there is a report from Fowlers bay where they have about 22 whales ( including a while calf)
Photo taken this afternon (25th August 1:00pm) of the mother and calf just in front of the whale lookout
The documentary video (below) of local identity and whale watcher, Peter Read was produced by Warrnambool film maker, Colleen Hughson and features some spectacular shots of Southern Right whales at Logan's beach
Photo taken on 3rd August with the car park at Logan's beach quite busy
Visitors enjoying the sunshine at Logan's beach whale lookout
More Whale Information
Why do whales come to Warrnambool?
Warrnambool, Victor Harbour (in South Australia) and Bunda Cliffs at the Head of the Bight, (near Ceduna) seem to be the main calving grounds for Southern Right whales in Australia. No one is precisely sure why, but the best current explanation is that Southern Right Whales behaviour is similar to many herd mammals where they will isolate themselves from the herd and find a safe place to hide from predators, to give birth to their young.
In the case of Southern Right whales, they appear to seek out areas which are close to high wave energy coastlines (beaches with high swells and breaking waves), it is also thought that they seek out an environment where steep cliffs and deep waters are adjacent to where they intend to give birth.
Both the Head of Bight, Victor Harbour and Warrnambool sites are high wave energy coastlines and are adjacent to deep waters and both of these areas possess high levels of naturally occurring background sound. This background noise ( breaking waves) makes it difficult for acoustically sensitive predators such as Killer Whales to detect the presence of vulnerable Southern Right Whales mothers and calves.
The close proximity to deep waters also seems to have an effect of the acoustic masking of the area and may also play a role in developing swimming skills and the stamina necessary for young whales to undertake their annual migration of up to 5000 kilometres to the Antarctic.
|South West Victoria's link
with Southern Right Whales ( Including Logan's beach)
Firstly a few facts - each year between May and June, Southern
Right Whales return to the southern coast of Australia ( also
New Zealand, South Africa and South America) to give birth,
raise their young and commence the breeding cycle again- of
the many thousands of Southern Right Whales on the planet, a
small percentage ( typically about a dozen) arrive in the south
west of Victoria.
What seems to happen is, when they arrive off the coast,
the pregnant females isolate themselves from the pod and search
out a quiet location close to the shore to give birth, and then spend the next few weeks close to the shore while their calves gain strength. This behavoir pattern makes them one of the few species of whale that can be viewed consistently from the shore ( albeit for a few weeks from the birth of their calves). There seems to be a number of favoured locations along souuthern coast where the mothers will shelter with their calves, Warrnambool, Victor Harbour (SA) and Bunda Cliffs (WA) are the best known of these.
Bunda Cliffs on average will have between 30-50 mothers and calves each season, Victor Harbour will have 4 to 6 and Warrnambool seems to average from 2 to 3 mothers and calves each year.
One of the main advantages for visitors to Logan's beach, is the close proximity to the city, less than 5kms from the centre of the city - whereas Bunda cliffs is literally thousands of kilometres from a large city, also Logans beach offers such easy access, where you can get out of you car and walk about 20 paces to the whale lookout.
|South West Victoria's link with Blue Whales (Portland - Cape Nelson)
Each year between November and April, along the South West
Coast of Victoria (and South Australia) an oceanographic phenomenon
called ocean upwelling occurs. A combination of winds and
currents cause cold, nutrient-rich bottom water to be forced
to the surface of the ocean. When the nutrients reach the
sunlit surface zone, there is an explosion of minute plant
life which includes 'phytoplankton', the basis of the marine
food chain, and also the primary food of the local species
of krill. The vast numbers of krill form part of an ocean
banquet which attracts large numbers of blue whales to this
feeding ground off Victoria's coast. The event is called "The
Bonney Upwelling" and is one of a handful of sites globally
where Blue whales can be seen surface-feeding. Although the
feeding site extends up to 30 - 50Kms off shore, they are
often sighted closer to shore and between December and May
blue whales are often visible from Cape Nelson, Cape Bridgewater
and the Blowholes, all near Portland. The whales are often
sighted within 10km of land, and sometimes within only a few
hundred metres. Their tall straight blows and silvery backs
can be seen from a great distance, and it likely that most
whales seen blowing out at sea during this period are blue
whales. This is one of the few places in the world where blue
whales can be viewed from land, while they hunt for, and feed
on the abundant swarms of krill which are nourished by the
The Real Whale Facts -
illustration of how tourism never lets the truth get in the
way of a good story
This small sign is located at the
Logan's beach whale lookout, and without peering at the screen
too closely it states "a visit to Flagstaff Hill will
allow you see what life was like when present day Warrnambool
stood at the centre of a large whaling, sealing and fishing
industry". It all sounds very wonderful but the only
problem is that there is absolutely no evidence to suggest
that any whaling or sealing ever took place in Warrnambool.
Warrnambool was not settled until 1848 and by then the whaling
and sealing industries in Port Fairy and Portland had all
but ceased. Records kept from the time of the first settlement
do not mention anything about whaling in the town and as there
has never been any evidence of European occupancy prior to
this date there is nothing to suggest that any whaling and
sealing was ever conducted in Warrnambool.
The notion of Warrnambool's involvement in the whaling industry
is only quite recent and dates back to the 1970's when the
association between whales and tourism became popular and
it became desirable to have some form of historic connection
with the annual visit of the Southern Right whales. Local
tourism authorities then started to imply that Warrnambool
had been settled by whalers and sealers, which they thought
sounded more romantic than being settled by farmers
The Visitor Information Centres then repeated
this misinformation in brochures and advertising, and within a short time lies had become facts
During the 1980's a permanent
display of whaling, whale boats and harpoons was set up in
Flagstaff Hill Maritime village, and the many thousands of visitors to Flagstaff Hill were told that Warrnambool was the epicentre of whaling in the region and by this time even the locals were believing the myth, so much so that the local tourism
body started to promote whale boat races, and over a period
of several years, teams from America competed in an International
challenge series, thus cementing the concept that Warrnambool
was somehow the centre of the whaling industry.
The reality should have been obvious, there was no one living in Warrnambool until 1848 and the nearest settlement was at Port Fairy (over 20 kilometers away), so why would whaleboat crews row all the way to Warrnambool ( about 4 hours rowing time) and then catch and kill a whale then try to drag a 50 ton whale back to Port Fairy, when there were whales already in the bay at Port Fairy .
The idea that Warrnambool had some connection with early
whalers might be romantic to some, but historiical evidence ( and plain logic) shows it is totally incorrect.
Local Whale Watching
The two main species of baleen whales that migrate to Australian
waters each winter are the Humpback and Southern Right whales,
the Humpbacks are the faster swimmers and they usually arrive
off the south west coast of Victoria in late April to early
They are on their way to Queensland so won't be stoping
off on the way. At present there has been a few whales sightings off the coast but these will be Humpbacks whales and will typically be about
1 or 2 kilometers off shore.
Humpback whales can be seen from the whale lookout at Logans beach but you will need a lot of patience, a good pair of binoculars and a bit of expirience in identifying the whales spouting, also they rarely will come cloer than a kilometer to the shore so don't expect a very close view.
The Southern Right whales, however live their lives at a more pedestrian
pace and swim a little more slowly and their arrival off the
coast of the Victorian mainland will be about a month behind
the humpbacks, with the first sightings typically in late
May to early June.
The Southern Right whales will no go any further north and
prefer a winter holiday in a slightly cooler climate, also the Southern Rights will come a lot closer to the shore and typically during the whale season they can often be seen within 100 metres of the shore.
Although the first sightings around Logans beach will occur
in late May / early June it will probably be Mid June before
any whales take up permanent residence for the winter months,
and hopefully the birth of a calf (or calves) will occur shortly
The car park at Logan's beach is located about 20 metres from the whale lookout and has been designed for easy wheelchair access.
In This Issue
More Whale Information..
How big are Southern Right whales, how long is the pregnancy and what attacts mothers and calves to the bay at Warrnambool. This and other perplexing question are answered on this page... More..
We take a no holds barred look at how the tourism (and the pursuit of the almighty dollar) effects how we promote Warrnambool and its link with Southern Right whales More...
Putting it into Perspective
The photo below is typical view of how close the whales can get to the shore at Logan's beach and what visitors can expect to see from the whale viewing platform.
Although during the season the whales are not always this close to the whale lookout and
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Tips For Whale Watching
- Check with the Warrnambool Visitor Centre
for daily sightings
- Take a good pair of binoculars or telescope
- Be prepared for long periods of waiting
The Southern Right Whale is one of the largest mammals on the planet and only marginally smaller than the Blue whales and larger than the Humpback whales that are frequently seen in Southern waters. Female Southern Right Whales frequently weigh in at 85 tonnes, with the males coming in at about 20 tonnes less, at 55 tonnes or so. Length also varies from Female to male, with the female Southern Right Whales measuring up to 19 metres in length - with males growing perhaps 2 metres less than females.
At birth, the Southern Right calves are delivered tail first, measure about 5.5 metres in length and weigh about 1 tonne. For the next 3 to 4 months the young whale calves will gain 50 to 60 kilograms per day and grow to 7 or 8 metres in length, and by the time the young whale calves are ready to depart to the Antarctic they will typically weigh between 6 and 8 tonnes. This growth is made more remarkable when you consider that Southern Right Whale mothers hasn’t eaten for several months before the birth and won’t eat again until about 4 months after the birth. During this time she will typically loose about 20 tonnes in bodyweight and because the birth of a calf involves a very high expenditure of energy, it seems likely that evolution has caused the female Right Whales to possess a much greater body mass than their male counterparts. Not surprisingly female Southern Right Whales tend to breed only every three years or so, generally wintering in their Sub-Antarctic feeding grounds during the off breeding cycle.
The closest whaling station to Warrnambool, was situated in
Port Fairy where the foundations of the early whaling station
can still be seen close to the Griffith's Island lighthouse
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