Close encounter with a humpback
Wildlife photographer Scott Portelli tells the story behind his photo of this close encounter with a baby humpback whale in Tonga.PT3M30S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-ym3r 620 349 June 17, 2010
A pod of five testosterone-charged whales put on a tail-thumping display of machismo just off Sydney today.
The five male humpbacks photographed about two kilometres from Manly were competing for top billing in their pod as they made their way north for the mating season.
Usually the most dominant male whale would be the one that gets the female at the end
Bass and Flinders Whale Watching crewman Jonas Liebschner, who captured these images, said the head-slapping, jumping spectacle was classic "competition pod" behaviour.
Sydney's humpback parade
Just outstanding ... a humpback shows off to male rivals. Photo: Jonas Liebschner
"It's male whales pushing and shoving around quite a bit to show dominance and to try to get the alpha male position," Mr Liebschner said.
"Usually the most dominant male whale would be the one that gets the female at the end."
The pod was spotted frolicking a way off but experienced some measure of performance anxiety as the boat, which is required to keep at least 100 metres from the mammals, drew near.
But one humpback's exhibitionist streak got the better of him eventually, Mr Liebschner said.
The whale watchers were treated to a 15-minute display of breaching, fluke-up diving and tail slaps.
"Basically out of the blue one of them was jumping and did that for the next 15 minutes and then as we left there was another big breach," he said.
The pod is taking part in the annual northern migration, which peaks in June and July.
Mr Liebschner said that, while the boat chose to follow one pod closely today, there were many others in the water.
"On a really good day you might have 150 to 200 whales going up the coast of Sydney," he said.
"You obviously don't see that many on one trip but it's not unusual to see pods where you see five, six, seven, eight, nine or 10 whales."