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These large migratory whales appear almost black above the surface of the water but melt into the blue when viewed underwater. The adults range from 12-16m, weighing up to 36tonne. Females are larger than males because they don't feed for months at a time after giving birth and while suckling their young calf. Their diet consists mainly of krill and fish (found in the antarctic). When the whales come to the surface to breath (adults around 12mins, calves a lot more frequently), their distinctive 'humped back' makes them easily identifiable (mother and calf in image 3). Their tail flukes are also very recognisable and each one is unique, allowing identification of indviduals (image 4)
They feed in the antarctic waters in summer months when feed is plentiful. These particular whales then migrate north, via the Kermadec Islands and use the Tonga Chasm to navigate up to the warmer tropics. There is no feed for these animals while in the tropics and they congregate just to calve and mate. Due to this, the males especially spend a lot of time resting in the water, just hanging, conserving energy, only moving to surface and breath, until it is time to mate.
Niue is one of the few places in the world where it is possible to swim with these amazing creatures. The Niueans have created their own stringent set of rules around approaching the animals (no wake, etc) and time in the water, and a 'no diving rule'. They have a very strong affinity with these creatures and are It is the choice of the whales whether they interact or not. On my four swims, three times the whales surfaced to breathe and then swam away from us. On the fourth the whale in image 1 came up from about 80m away, and swam directly to us, did a 90degree turn (carefully keeping his powerful tail down and away from everyone) about 3-5m away and very gently swam along the line of swimmers. He then visited the support boat about 100m away and then dived down about 20m behind it in only about 50m of water (image 6) New research about the evolving calls of these majestic creatures is indicating a potential congregation point at the Kermadecs, where songs are exchanged and learnt. If you have any images of whale flukes from Niue, please provide them to email@example.com. For more information on Oma Tafua go to: http://www.sprep.org/biodiversity-ecosys...