Humpback Whale Calves Already StrugglingSunday, 10th August 2014
We set off in perfect weather from the Port of Port Elizabeth on whale watching vessel Orca 2 in the hope of having a good days "whaling". The northern migration of humpback whales is well underway and the odd Southern right whale has been spotted, albeit fleetingly from the shore. After one and a half hours the Raggy Charters crew started getting anxious as nothing had been spotted save for the odd albatross and sunfish. I decided to keep going for another 15 minutes before turning back towards port. I knew the guests would be disappointed. All of a sudden our guide Ellie shouted from the filming platform above the cabin that she had seen two blows off our starboard bow.
Orca 2's 300 horse power engines roared to life and we sped off towards the blows. What a surprise we had when we encountered not one humpback cow and calf pair but two! What was really perturbing was how badly scarred the new-born calves were as can be seen in the attached photos. They looked as bad as the entangled juvenile that we assisted in releasing off Maitland's River on the 28th July. There were heavy lacerations on the skin and blubber that revealed the red meat below. It is not known what exactly caused this but the most likely culprit may have been adult males mating with the females and injuring the calves in the process. It also looks like the one received a few bites from cookie cutter sharks and possibly an entanglement in fishing gear. Whatever the cause both these youngsters must have been seriously traumatised and are probably lucky to still be alive. Humpback calves are born between July and October with a peak in August. It is known that cows can fall pregnant again shortly after giving birth. Although some calves are born on the Northern migration and have been observed off Durban, this is the first time in 20 years that I have observed newly born calves off Algoa Bay. Another new occurrence for our wonderful bay!
Just to round it off, on our way back we saw about 10 Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins off Pollock beach and two enormous Southern right whales just outside the Port of Port Elizabeth! They have arrived and taken up residence in the bay at last. What an end to an amazing day!"
Lloyd Edwards: Seaview: 9th August 2014