Why whale jumped out of water 137 times in a row
A BOATLOAD of passengers set out to witness one of nature's most spectacular sights captured more than they bargained for with a record 137 breaches from one playful whale off Gold Coast waters yesterday afternoon
The majestic mammal put on a spectacular acrobatics show launching out of the water to breach and display its pectoral slap.
Spirit of Gold Coast Whale Watching boat supervisor Karen Evans said the whale continued to breach as they were headed back towards shore.
"It was pretty special, a couple of weeks ago a whale did 122 breaches, but now the record has been beaten," she said.
"We were counting to 100 and just thought, 'wow, is he still going?'
"We were all very excited, you'd think he's get tired, but the breaches were so close together.
"You wouldn't think there was enough down time for him to get enough speed to go again.
"And some of them were completely out of the water."
The crew on board were unsure of the sex of the whale but said they believe it was around 30-40m and a juvenile.
"It's not uncommon to see whales on their own, but on average we come across two, sometimes pods of three or four. Most of them are on their southern migration," she said.
"Sometimes you don't see them doing anything, just swimming along. So to see a whale breaching out of the water continuously is just mind-blowing."
Sea World Whale Watch's David Robertson said they'd witnessed whales breaching repeatedly but had lost count.
"We've definitely seen some breach over 80 times," he said.
"The Gold Coast is very lucky, we see a large concentration of whales passing here. They're turning a corner as they reach the most easterly parts of the coastline.
"They're mostly just a couple of kilometres offshore."
Mr Robertson said last week their crews saw a southern right whale and its calf among the humpbacks.
"It's a very rare sight for anyone," he said.
"They were killed off and wiped out pretty early, there's only about 3000 left, and they're very slow breeders, so their recovery is slow."
Sea World's curator of mammals Mitchell Leroy said it was difficult to determine exactly why a whale would breach so many times in quick succession.
"There are many reasons why a whale could be breaching, and sometimes its difficult to gauge their behaviour," he said.
"It could have been a fantastic feeling of the strong wind on it while it was in the air and splashing back down again.
"It could have had a parasite infection and it just felt good to be scratching and doing it repeatedly. It could have just been playing around - something to do with its mood.
"Or for all we know it could have been harassed by another whale and breaching was a way to show that enough is enough, or even asserting dominance.
"I don't think they're showing off though, because that's a human emotion, they are inquisitive, which is why we see them spy hop, but they're not going to perform differently just because there's a boatload of people nearby."
Mr Leroy said he's heard more breaches are seen on windy days, and there was no distinction between which gender or age breaches the most.
"Regardless, we don't in general credit these animals with the amount of power they have, when you've been really close to one and see the strength and power in their tail and body, you realise how they can lift 30 tonnes out of the water … it's just astonishing," he said.
The humpback whales will be crossing through Gold Coast waters as they begin, and continue, their migration back south.