It was fascinating to watch their moves both above and below the water. Humpbacks are known to be pretty acrobatic, and I was lucky enough to catch some of their antics on camera.
"Pec slapping" was a common occurrence. Their pectoral fins are very elongated and they use them for maneuvering, as well as just to make some noise!
We read and heard about tail slapping, and saw a little of that, but much more of lobbing it about. This juvenile entertained us one afternoon for several hours (!) of surface activity. It reminded me of a little kid mastering a new physical skill by practicing on and on...
Another one proudly showed off its ability to raise its tail completely out of the water and hold it there for several seconds.
"Spyhopping" is cool to see both on the surface, as well as below.
Breaching was awesome to see, and you could see the tell tale splashes for miles. However, capturing it on camera is a different story. There's no warning before they launch out of the water. However, sometimes an individual will keep practicing, or several will show off for each other, giving you a chance to have your camera trained in the general vicinity and hope you get lucky.
A momma was apparently teaching her baby how to do it:
We were early in the season of this Tongan population of whales coming north from Antarctic waters, to calve and breed. We didn't have many mom and baby opportunities, but we were treated to the bull run and a fair amount of surface activity.
This baby had been practicing breaching over and over, so I got several neat shots at quite a distance. When I zoomed in on this one, I was thrilled to see its mouth open. Apparently they almost never do that in Tonga, as there's no food for them, and they have to wait to return to Antarctica, to feast in the krill rich waters there (near the end of the year).
This was my best momma and baby shot, due to poor water visibility and a protective mom who didn't want to hang around.
My favorite pictures were those with direct eye contact. It was so amazingly thrilling to watch this enormous creature glide effortlessly by you, with its eye locked on you the whole time. (By the way, these two photos are not enhanced or zoomed at all.)
What a memorable, magical experience!
More to come in another posting...