We observed Sweetheart and her calf Heartthrob, on five occasions over ten days in September 2001. The final of these encounters was an amazing experience. Sweetheart allowed her calf to interact with us for an hour. She remained quietly submerged while the two escorts with her, seemed to be minding Heartthrob.
Above: Sweetheart’s underside fluke in 2001.
Close extended encounters or ‘muggings’ as they are known, between humpback whales, and vessels in Hervey Bay, generally occur during August when the immature whales are spending time in the bay. This encounter was unique because it is the first time we have been ‘mugged’ by a calf. Humpback calves are said to be ‘precocious’. This means that from the moment of birth, calves must be fully functional and active. During the first nine months of their lives they have to learn from their mothers all the skills and knowledge needed to survive as a young humpback whale. Previous encounters with Sweetheart, suggests that she not only takes care of her own calves but also acts as a den mother to other immature whales. Escorts often join females with calves. In this encounter Sweetheart, was accompanied by two escorts, Nebo a female and Demi who has half of its fluke missing.
Heartthrob showing off with a full body breach.
Although almost fully white, it is the unique shapes on the
trailing edge enables Nebo’s fluke to be photo-identified and
matched with future sightings.
The heart shape mark is clearly visible forward
of Sweethearts dorsal fin.
Demi’s fluke is likely to have been cut through by a dragging