After feeding and building up their reserve energy the Humpback will head North, pass Tasmania and the East coast towards the warmer waters of the Great Barrier Reef, where they mate and give birth. It appears that whales want to do this in extreme privacy. Observations from other parts of the world suggest, that Humpback whales have moved away from `traditional breeding grounds, because of vessel traffic.
During the mating game the males fight for the exclusive right to mate with a selected female and many an unsuccessful male has come away scarred and bruised. The song of the Humpback whale also plays a major part in this and is used to communicate with females or perhaps to warn off other males. Just less than a year later the female gives birth to her calf, usually 4 to 5 metres in length and weighing approximately 1.5 tons. Sometimes another whale acting as a midwife, is present, which will push the calf to the surface for its first breath of air. This "escort" may stay with mother and calf for several months to assist and protect and it is a clear indication of the social bond, that exists amongst the Humpback whales and most members of the whale families. The exceptional strong bond between mother and calf is often witnessed from the whale watch vessels, when mother will generally position herself between the vessel and her calf. The little one may try to sneak over to the boat, but mother will often cut its path.
During the 1992 season most operators reported the beginning of a remarkable change in this strict control. Firstly there were more mother and calves pods in Hervey Bay than any other previous year and they also arrived much earlier. But more importantly the females would readily allow calves to swim towards the vessels, sometimes staying for 15 minutes or more. This change of attitude continued in 1993, in fact it was often reported that females would push their calves towards the whale watch vessels, proudly displaying their off-springs. Have the Humpback whales accepted, that their calves are no longer in danger from these vessels? Did they communicate this to each other? We know they can communicate, because when the slaughter of whales was an industry, all Humpback whales tried to avoid places like Byron Bay by swimming around them in an arc of some 60 miles!