To see a whale breach is a sight nobody will ever forget, where 45 tons of whale will propel itself almost clear out of the water, by merely a few flicks of its tail.
Very few people realize, that the Humpback whale does not dive deep, before breaching. How can they? They are as long as the shallow waters of Hervey Bay are deep and would nose-dive into the bottom.
No, they swim under the surface, bend their head back and up and virtually "leap" out of the water, almost upright, twisting their body 180 degrees, before crashing on their backs, exploding tons of water in all directions. The breach can be seen from 5-6 km or more and are often the first indication, where the whales are. Or are they showing the whale watch fleet of their presence?
There are many theories, from joyous expressions to serious methods of communication, such as: "I am to strongest", or "stay out, this is my territory". The chances of seeing breaches increases in windy conditions, but that’s not to say, that on a flat calm day and totally unexpected, a whale may breach very close to a boat. This, in a lot of cases, can be regarded as a warning signal: “I am here”, or “I am feeding my calf’. Some photographs clearly show the wake of a fast vessel and the breach of a Humpback immediately after. Whales will also use the breach to see above the surface, as with an eye on either side of their head and rotating 180 degrees, it will give them a complete picture. But above all it seems a playful behaviour, something they thoroughly enjoy doing.
Calves are definitely being taught how to breach correctly, where mum will show them once or twice and junior follows, sometimes in excess of 100 breaches, non-stop.