A species of a baleen whale is the humpback whale. The only species of the genus Megaptera is a rorqual. Adults can weigh up to 40 metric tons and range in length from 14 to 17 meters. The humpback’s long pectoral fins and head tubercles give it a distinctive body shape. These baleen whales live close to coastlines and eat plankton, small fish, and tiny creatures resembling shrimp called krill. Every year, humpback whales travel from their summer feeding grounds near the poles to their winter breeding habitats nearer the equator. Mothers and their young frequently swim close to one another while making apparent affectionate motions with their flippers. Although it takes a humpback whale much longer to reach full age than that, females nurse their babies for approximately a year. Calves continue to grow until the age of ten.
There are humpback whales in every ocean in the world. Megaptera novaeangliae, their Latin name, translates to “great wing of New England.” It relates to their appearance off the coast of New England, where European whalers first encountered them, and their enormous pectoral fins, which can reach a length of 16 feet. They are known by the common name “humpback” due to their dark backs, light bellies, wrinkles on their throats, and little hump in front of their dorsal fins. A favorite of whale watchers, humpbacks perform peduncle throws, a behavior specific to this species in which they raise their entire rear torso and tail out of the water, twist, and slam their lower half down onto the ocean surface. They also slap the water with their flukes and pectoral fins, rise nose-first out of the water (called “spy hopping”), and perform other common behaviors. Rarer behaviors include flapping their fins like wings and sporadically forming 200-person “super groups,” however experts are unsure of the causes.
Humpback whales are adept swimmers who propulsion themselves through the water and occasionally out of it using their enormous tail fins, called flukes. Like other whales, these frequently jump out of the water and land with a huge splash. The aim of this breaching action, such as cleansing parasites from the whale’s skin, is unknown to scientists. It’s also unknown whether whales breach only for amusement.
James Moskito, a professional diver, worked with a group of volunteers at the Farallon Islands, located off the San Francisco coast. At the water’s surface, he noticed a humpback whale performing suspiciously. As James continued observing the whale, it became obvious that something was amiss. Typically, whales only surface for a brief period to breathe. The whale rose on a breath, raised its head, raised one eye above the water, and then turned to face me. James said it stayed there, and they knew it was staring at me. James decided to swim over to the whale. I’m here to help you; he said as he placed his hand over the creature’s eye. I won’t hurt you.
James then swam around to the whale’s opposite side, astounded at what he discovered. A 3,000-pound anchor was fastened to the whale’s tail. Hours were spent working painstakingly to liberate the lovely animal from the mile-long chain around it, dragging it down by James and the other courageous divers. After considerable effort, the team finally saw success. The whale began swimming figure-eights around James as it circled him. Then, as if to express gratitude, it brushed up against him. Do you ever wonder how sleeping whales manage to breathe? Humpback whales, unlike humans, must consciously remember to breathe, even while asleep.
There are humpback whales in all of the world’s primary oceans. During their annual migration, they can cover large distances; some species migrate 5,000 miles between their winter breeding and calving grounds in tropical waters and their summer feeding grounds in high latitudes. Some humpback whales migrate through the North Pacific from Alaska to Hawai’i; they can make the 3,000-mile journey in as little as 28 days. They favor shallow, warm waters near beaches or offshore reef systems during calving. The typical feeding areas for humpback whales are in cold, productive waters.
According to Animal Planet, whales probably turn off half of their brains at a time as they sleep so they can still be awake enough to breathe. I find it incredible how committed and diligent these men were in trying to save this lovely animal. James’ conversation with the whale can seem weird to some people. However, whales have sentiments and perhaps comprehend more than we realize. Whales have the same specialized brain cells involved in processing emotions as humans and primates, according to research from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. Therefore, we can confidently say that the humpback whale appreciated all the assistance it received.