About Mills Perth Whale Watching Cruises
Whale Watching Perth.com is a family run business that was first established in 1984 and has developed an enviable reputation within the recreational boat charter industry of Western Australia. Our high whale watching sighting rates and high level of customer service can be measured by our many strong loyal repeat customers.
To help us maintain our position at the forefront of the boat charter and whale watching industry we have needed to be both progressive and inspirational. We are constantly striving for ways of improving our boating operation and the service that we offer to our valued customers. Whale Watching Perth.com is an Australian Tourism Accredited Whale Watching Charter in Western Australia. We offer varied Whale Watching trips and eco tour charters in Perth. Whole boat charters, Corporate and private party functions on the Swan River, Rottnest and Carnac Island.
Book a Whale Watching trip in Western Australia on your own, with a few mates, or charter the whole boat for your work or private function. Our years of knowledge and experience will make sure that your day on the water is a truly memorable one. At Whale Watching Perth Charters, we are constantly striving to enhance an already, excellent reputation within the recreational Whale Watching charter boat industry.
Whale Types and Migration
The freezing waters off Antarctica are the summer home for many whale species. While there, the whales feed on the rich supply of krill (small prawn-like animals). In autumn, as the temperature falls and ice starts to cover the sea, many of the large whale species begin a long and hard migration northward to the warm waters off the Australian coast. Humpback and southern right whales follow a similar route each year, and many females make the journey while pregnant so that they can give birth in Australian waters.
How many whale species are found in Australian waters?
8 species of baleen whales (Blue, Fin, Sei, Bryde’s, Minke, Humpback, Southern Right, Pygmy);
35 species of toothed whale (including Sperm, Orca, Pilot, Melon, Strap-toothed, Beaked);
Nearly 60% of the world’s total number of whales, dolphins and porpoises are found in Australian waters.
Types of Whales
There are three (3) types of whales commonly seen from the shore in Australia:
1. Southern Right Whale (Eubalaena australis).
Southern right whales are robust and have a strongly arched mouth and long baleen plates. Large white bumps (callosities) occur on top of the head, along the edges of the lower jaw and above the eye. Southern right whales have no dorsal fin. The flippers are large and rounded, and the flukes have a broad, smooth rear margin separated by a deep notch.
The flukes are often lifted out of the water as the animal dives. Southern right whales are predominantly black, but some may have patches of white.
Absence of a dorsal fin; strongly arched mouth; large callosities on the head
Length: 13 to 18 metres, average 15 metres.
Southern right whales migrate to the southern coasts of Australia each winter. Because of their habit of calving or resting with young calves in shallow water just beyond the surf line, they are easily observed, particularly from headlands. The early whalers regarded the southern right whales as the ‘right’ whale to hunt. They are slow swimmers, float when dead, and yield much oil and baleen. Consequently, early whaling in Australia took large numbers of southern right whales, and now only a few hundred visit the Australian coast each year. The shapes of the white callosities on the head are unique for each individual and provide an easy means of identification. Southern right whales rarely strand.
2. Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)
Humpback whales have a stocky body with a broad head and long flippers up to one third of the total body length. The dorsal fin is small, often sitting on a ‘hump’ in the back. Knobby protuberances with bristle hair and often with barnacles growing on them, occur on the head, jaws and flippers. The lower jaw has a rounded projection near its tip. The rear margin of the tail flukes and the leading edge of the flippers are scalloped.
The body is black on the back and white underneath and sometimes on the sides. The flippers and underside of the tail flukes are usually white. The baleen plates are black.
Long flippers; humped dorsal fin; knobby protuberances on the head, jaws and flippers; and the rounded projection near the tip of the lower jaw. Humpback whales often raise their tail flukes before diving.
Length: 14 to 19 metres, average 14 to 15 metres.
Humpback whales migrate from Antarctica to the sub-tropical coastal waters of Australia to give birth and mate during winter and spring. Consequently, whale watchers are most likely to see this species in the coastal waters of eastern and western Australia. Humpback whales frequently perform spectacular aerial leaps and ‘sing’ long complex ‘songs’ during the breeding season. Individuals can be identified from the colour pattern under the tail. Large numbers of humpback whales were taken by whaling operations on Norfolk Island and on the east and west coasts of Australia. Whaling for humpbacks ceased in 1963, and the populations appear to be recovering. Strandings of humpback whales have been reported from all States and the Northern Territory, however this does not occur very often as such whales are often dead already or very sick.
3. Killer Whale (Orca)
Killer whales are powerful and robust with large, broad, rounded flippers and 10 to 12 pairs of large conical teeth in each jaw. Adult males have a tall, erect dorsal fin which may be up to 1.8 metres high. In females, the dorsal fin is not as tall, and is slightly hooked.
The black and white pattern on killer whales is striking. On the back, they are black from the tip of the rostrum to the tail, with a white path above the eye, and a light grey saddle patch behind the dorsal fin. On the belly, white extends to the chin and branches into a white process on each side of the body. The underside of the flukes is also white.
Large dorsal fin (particularly large in males); striking black and white pattern , with a white patch behind the eye; a grey saddle patch.
Length: 8 to 9.5 metres (males are larger than females).
Killer whales are voracious predators. They hunt singly or in groups, feeding on fish, seals and other cetaceans. They are usually found in groups and are commonly seen in Australian waters, and occasionally close inshore. They sometimes strand on the Australian coast.
Whale FAQ ? Frequently Asked Questions
There are no freshwater whales. The large Baleen and Toothed whales would die in freshwater for no other reason than insufficient food. They gather much more food from the ocean than they ever could from rivers and estuaries. But, there are a number of Dolphins that do live in freshwater.
In the tropical Indo-Pacific there are freshwater, estuarine and coastal species. These include the blind river dolphins, the Indus and Ganges susus of India and Pakistan, and the baiji of the Yangtze River in China. Other moderately similar forms exist in the rivers, estuaries and coastal waters of eastern South America. These include the boto or boutu, a river dolphin of the Amazon and Orinoco basins, and the franciscana, a river dolphin of the La Plata estuary which has extended its range along the coast southwards into the cooler waters of Argentina.
Whales swim at different speeds depending on what they are doing. They swim faster when they are in danger than when they are not. They swim faster at the surface than in a deep dive and they swim pretty fast when they leap out of the water.
Dolphins moving through the water alongside a boat have attained speeds of 39km/hour (21 knots) over short distances. Migrating whales have been recorded traveling distances of over 3,700km (2,000 nautical miles) at an average continuous speed of 17km/hour (9 knots). These speeds are probably unusual, and prolonged cruising speeds are probably between 9 & 17km/hour (5-9 knots) for dolphins and between 4 & 30km/hour (2-16 knots) for the fast moving rorquals.
A Sperm whale?s head has a huge cavity called the spermaceti organ. It holds over 100 litres of a waxy substance which changes density when its temperature changes. By drawing water in through its blowhole and nasal passages the Sperm whale can alter the temperature of the wax. The colder the wax the denser it becomes making the whale less buoyant so that it can sink.
To rise to the surface again the whale simply blows the water out of its nasal passages, causing the wax to warm up and become less dense. The buoyant whale then floats to the surface without even having to swim.
Although male Sperm whales often have large scars on their bodies the scars are usually the result of battles with other adult males and not the result of life-and-death struggles with monstrous squid. Some whales have been seen with large sucker-shaped scars around their heads and these may well have been caused by large squid which the whale was attempting to eat.
The largest recorded squid eaten by a Sperm whale was 19.5m long (longer than most Sperm whales) and must have put up a fierce fight to resist being swallowed up whole. Most squid eaten by Sperm whales are, however, much smaller and weigh less than 7kgs.
Moby Dick was a great white Sperm whale in the famous novel called ?Moby Dick?, written by Herman Melville in the 19th century. In the story, Moby Dick was chased across the ocean by the bitter captain of a whaling boat who was seeking revenge for the loss of his leg. The book ended sadly with a 3 day fight between Moby Dick and the hunters. In the end only one man survived the battle.
Different species of whales dive to different depths, but one of the deepest divers is the Sperm whale which can dive more than 1km and even 3kms in search of food. The beaked whales are also good divers. Some are able to dive to at least 1km. Most of the smaller whales and dolphins don?t dive this deep, although Bottlenose dolphins are quite capable of diving down to a depth of almost 500 metres.
Another name for the Humpback whale is the ?Hump-backed ?whale. Its name being derived from the pronounced hump it has on its back in front of the dorsal fin. Another reason is the way the whale arches or ?humps? its back when diving. The dorsal fin is the triangular fin which stands upright out of the water when a whale swims just below the ocean surface. Much like the shark fin you see in the movies and on television.
The Humpback whale is one of the most energetic of the ?Rorquals?. The biggest of the Rorqual family is the Blue whale, the largest animal ever to have lived on earth. The Humpback whale is well known for it?s spectacular breeching, lobtailing and flipper slapping. It is easily recognised by it?s unique flukes (tail fins), knobbly head and long flippers. However, no two Humpback whales are exactly alike; the black and white pigmentation on the underside of their flukes is as unique as a human fingerprint.
According to the Guinness Book of Records, the female Blue whale is the largest and heaviest animal in the world. The tongue and heart of the largest Blue whale ever recorded (1947) weighed 4.22tons 4.29tonnes and 1540lbs 698.5 kgs respectively.
The most important product of modern commercial whaling was oil. The oil rendered from the blubber of baleen whales was used to produce soap, margarine and other foodstuffs. From Sperm whales the collection of a waxy substance called ?spermaceti? was first used for lamp oil and then for specialized lubricants in the cosmetic, textile and leather industries, and in the making of pencils, crayons and candles.
Meat from Sperm whales was used only for animal feed whilst from baleen whales it was used for human consumption. By 1950 meal for animal foodstuffs and chemical products became increasingly important. During post-war famine in Japan baleen whale meat became even more highly valued for human consumption. During the late 1970?s whale catches in the Antarctic were yielding 30% meat, 20% oil and 7% meal and solubles. (Alan 1980)
In recent years many suitable alternatives have been found for most of these products. Notably among these is the oil extracted from the seeds of the jojaba shrub (Simmondsia chinensis), a plant from the arid regions of the United States and elsewhere in the world. This oil has been found to be an excellent lubricant and is able to replace Sperm whale oil for most purposes. In the Western world whale oil has largely been replaced by vegetable and fish oils, while meat for animal feed has been replaced by fish meals.
Whales can only breath through their blowholes. Blowholes are the external opening to a whale?s nasal passages, rather like our nostrils. In baleen whales, there are two blowholes side by side; in toothed whales, there is just one. Blowholes are situated on or near the top of the head; their exact shape and location vary according to the species. Strong muscles close the blowholes before the animal dives underwater. Whales are unable to breathe through their mouths, as the trachea and oesophagus are completely separate.
Whales have to be conscious to breath. This means that they cannot go into a full deep sleep, because then they would suffocate. They have ?solved? that by letting one half of their brain sleep at a time. This has been determined by doing EEG studies on dolphins. They sleep about 8 hours a day in this fashion. REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, usually associated with dreaming has been recorded only very rarely. Some scientists claim they do not have REM sleep at all.
The Bottle nose whales and Sperm whales can stay underwater for almost 2 hours on long dives. Most of the large whales, like the Blue whale and the Fin whales, rarely stay down longer than 40 minutes while large dolphins such as the Bottlenose dolphin usually stay down for less than 15 minutes. The smaller Common dolphin dives for less than 3 minutes. Te longest recorded dive by a whale (Guinness Book of Records) was that of a Sperm Whale. On 25th August 1969 a bull Sperm Whale surfaced from a dive lasting 1 hour 52 minutes.