Monday, 28 September 2015

Humpback Whales in Southern Pacific Seas

Hump Back Whales in Tonga Waters - photo Chris R Ball August 2015

29 September 2015 Today John Key ( Prime Minister of New Zealand ) announced plans for the Kermadec Trench to become an  Ocean Sanctuary. Several weeks ago we returned from a Tongan Holiday which included whale watching - Humpback whales who migrate from their Antarctic summer feeding areas warmer tropical waters such as Tonga for Winter calving. They travel long distances up largely  the Eastern Coast of New Zealand and through Cook Strait and along the West Coast. Following calving they return with their young to the Antarctic via along largely the West Coast of  New Zealand.
 The Kermadec from North Island New Zealand to Tonga provide a migratory corridor for humpback whales. The Kermadec Trench one of the planet Earth's  deepest trenches and its continuation - the Tongan Trench with its subduction is home to many fish, turtles and mammals such as Humpback Whale. From time way back and in the history of settlement in New Zealand they have been part of the many stories passed down.
Humpback Whale - Photo Chris R Ball August 2015

Anyway on with this Humpback Whale tale.  Saw Tom at the Supermarket after our return from Tongs.  Now Tom is a very keen fisherman off the shores of Coromandel's Eastern Seaboard. On hearing of our fortune seeing Humpback Whales with Deep Blue Diving in Tonga, Tom shared a sighting when fishing a couple of months ago, of a Humpback whale close to Whangamata Shores. Don't know whether this was one of those we saw at Tonga. However for the three of us it  recalled recent past history memories.
 A dead Humpback Whale being washed up on the Whangamata's Main  Surf Beach back in December 2011. There was another whale stranding on the South Beach, Whangamata back in the late 1990's near Hinemoa Street. Both the whales from these events were buried where found. Likewise for those that did not survive in the large pilot whale stranding further up the coast from Whangamata at Ohui near Opoutere in 2004. I remember that stranding very well and the joy felt when the surviving whale took the encouraging help and headed back out to sea on their journey towards Tuhua ( Mayor Island).
Island off Ohui Coromandel's Eastern Seaboard 1980's - Photo JM Stewart
Another such Humpback  was reported stranded and washed up on the Kapiti Coast at Waikanae Beach  in October 2014. Since people settlement on the coasts of New Zealand, strandings, wash ups or presence of large sea creatures such as whales, dolphins and sea elephants has always attracted great interest. In July 2014 a Humpback Whale visited   Reotahi reserve in Whangarei Harbour feeding on sprats - typical of Humpback for keeping close to the shoreline on their migratory route they feed on small fish, krill and plankton.
Humpback Whale seen from Deep Blue  Diving Tonga - photo Chris R Ball August 2015
Looking back in New Zealand's  papers online - Papers Past  New Zealand National Library one can find a number of articles on Humpback Whales.

Courtesy Papers Past, National Library NZ
Gone in recent times of New Zealand's past history  are the days of whalers and sealers who plied these coasts. Now it is people like us whale watching and in event of stranding or being washed up, community taking care of these whales.
Humpback Whale - photo Chis R Ball August 2015

My mother a DOC Wildlife Ranger with DOC ,organised in 1993 , a mammal  rescue seminar at Whangamata. We learned during this seminar the skills of assisting whales to survive and return to their sea travels. A rescue group was set up after this seminar, headed by coordinator Nobby Coxhead. No doubt some will have stories of this to pass down families - a relevant part of the Past NZ History on these coasts of New Zealand.

Mammal Rescue Seminar at Whangamata 1993  - photo HM Stewart
                                             Humpback Whale from Deep Blue Diving - Photo Chris R Ball August 2015
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