project news

There She Blows! Frontier’s Having a Whale of a Time

News item submitted by Frontier
News item dated 1 Oct 2009


Volunteers on both our Tanzania Marine and Madagascar Marine Programmes have been rubbing shoulders with ocean giants – humpback whales.

The team in Tanzania, having just completed a survey dive on ‘Sea Monkey’ reef were returning to camp aboard the dhow Potwe (Swahili for whale shark) when the captain cried ‘shark’!

Volunteers looked on in disbelief as a large humpback whale was spotted just 50 metres off the bow before scrambling wildly for their masks and fins in a race to get into the water.

The 15-metre whale spent nearly four minutes rolling around and swimming in lazy circles around the snorkelling group. The volunteers described the experience as serene and one of overwhelming calm as time seemed to stand still in the presence of such a huge, powerful creature.

Meanwhile in Madagascar, our research team have been checking in with whales more regularly, seeing them nearly every day over the last few months. Most regularly seen is a female with her calf, and our staff and volunteers have often been serenaded as they carry out their underwater research.

Humpback whales are found in oceans and seas around the world, travelling up to 25,000 km’s each year! They generally spend summers in cooler, temperate waters but move to tropical and subtropical waters to mate and bare young.

It is thought there are an estimated 80,000 humpback whales worldwide, a number which has improved significantly in recent decades with the end of the commercial whaling era.

Today the humpback whale remains vulnerable to several threats including entanglements in fishing gear, collisions with ships and even noise pollution as they are extremely sensitive to noise. Perhaps most threatening was the move by the Japanese Government to resume humpback whaling in 2007. Thankfully, the Japanese Government agreed to postpone this plan after pressure from the International Whaling Commission, environmentalists and individual governments, in particular the Australian government.

The opportunity to swim with a humpback whale in the wild is one of many amazing experiences volunteers have had on the Madagascar and Tanzania Marine Projects. Our volunteers carry out crucial research into the biodiversity of the coral reefs to ensure these magical underwater worlds remain pristine so that others can have a whale of a time here in the future!