Day 17/35 – Part 1/6

Whales and dolphins along the Kaikoura Coast

Today, I get up early to prepare for a whaling tour at 07:15. Around 07:00 the light is already quite beautiful. That possibility slipped my mind. I could have shot a nice sunrise before going (-;. This has to wait untill tomorrow.

Around Kaikoura there is a very special situation: a one kilometer deep canyon is very close to shore. This attracts sperm whales that hunt at these depths. They stay underwater for 40-60 minutes and once surfaced they only rebreath for a few minutes. Then they go down again and this goes on and on, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. These are all males because the water is to cold for females. Males have a thicker layer of fat of around 45 centimeters.

Females remain together with the juveniles close to the equator. Once they reach the age of 15, the boys start having attention for the girls and that is not allowed. They are casted out and travel in groups to more nutricious waters, like here. The goal is get as large as possible. Around the age of 50, they return to the place where they have been born. Here, all males fight, until only one dominant male is left that takes al females into this harem. The other males remain solitary. They eat almost everything like squid, tuna and even blue sharks and maco’s. The latter I did not know. Sperm whales are one of the few whales that will put up a real fight when provoked or attacked.

Some years ago, an 18 meter tentacle of a giant squid (Kraken) washed ashore here. Note that a 6 meter body belongs to it! Every suction cup is a kind of beak with teath in it that all ‘bite’ towards the centre. So these monsters really do exist then…

Whale Watch Kaikoura is a company run by Maori. They offer whaling trips that can last for several hours depending on weather and the number of whales being spotted. First you are transported to the harbour by bus in approximately 10 minutes. Once on board you find yourself seated in a comforable chair and in half an hour you sail very fast to the undersea canyon where the sperm whales are. Here the vessel slows down and you are allowed to go outside. From this moment on, everyone watches for signs of whales. If one is spotted then the vessel goes that way. If on a major distance, everyone has to go inside so that the vessel can go faster. Sometimes they are really too far away, because sperm whales surface for only a few minutes at a time.

Several vessels are in close contact with each other and whales are also being spotted from the air. An orbitting helicopter is a firm indication for a whale at the surface. Sometimes, whales are tracked down via underwater microphones as well. A sperm whale makes clicking sounds while diving and hunting. Once the clicking stops this means that the whale is coming up for air. Soon, we see our first one.

Sperm Whale Number 1

On this first photo, the most part of the head and the complete tail are under water.

Potvis bij Kaikoura, late summer, noorder eiland, Nieuw Zealand.

Every few minutes the snout surfaces for a fresh breath…

Potvis bij Kaikoura, late summer, noorder eiland, Nieuw Zealand.

…to disappear under water again. It proves difficult to shoot with a telelens from this wobbling vessel. Especially from the roof it is hard.

Potvis bij Kaikoura, late summer, noorder eiland, Nieuw Zealand.

Apparently, this whale has been rebreathing for a while already, because soon after we arrive, it prepares for the dive. Right before it goes down, it takes in one last big breath and arches its back…

Potvis bij Kaikoura, late summer, noorder eiland, Nieuw Zealand.

…slowly the stern emerges from the water…

Potvis bij Kaikoura, late summer, noorder eiland, Nieuw Zealand.

…followed by the tail…

Potvis bij Kaikoura, late summer, noorder eiland, Nieuw Zealand.

…and disappears vertically in the depth…

Potvis bij Kaikoura, late summer, noorder eiland, Nieuw Zealand.

…to fight once again in total darkness with giant squids and other pray.

Potvis bij Kaikoura, late summer, noorder eiland, Nieuw Zealand.

After this short but prosperous encounter we all start looking around, to find another one. We are really in to this now!

Maps, Charts & Downloads

GPS Map with color coded altitude information

Color coded distance/altitude chart

Color coded distance/altitude chart, New Zealand Late Summer 2011, Day 17

Download the original gpx file gpx file here.

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