Nala was sighted in early August 1997, continuously extending her fluke high above the surface of the water, approximately 20 seconds at a time, while Circe was submerged beneath Nala, for 20mins, 33mins and 30mins at a time. These are the longest humpback whale breath-holds we have observed.
Above: Circe's underside fluke in 2004 showing the distinctive mark in the centre of the fluke. This mark is recorded and used to resight Circe again when analysing photography from future Oceania Project expeditions.
This was our first observation of Circe and in 1997 we knew very little about her class; for example whether she was a female or a male. So in 1997 we wondered if Circe was a male escort involved in courtship behaviour with Nala, another of the humpback icons. However, Circe was again observed in early August in 2003. She was then in the company of a known two-year-old female named Klina, and another whale named Ithaca. The mystery of the enchantress Circe was solved in 2004, when she was observed as a mother with a new calf in tow. So we now knew that she was a female. That was a very interesting piece of information, because humpback females in the Northern Hemisphere have not been observed in the company of other females. What is also intriguing is that in 1997 Circe was also in a pod of eleven whales, with Gatch, one of the most battered and bruised of escorts we know. More on Gatch soon!