When I posted Part 3 of my updates on 24 August, I discussed the abundance of heat runs this season. Little did I realise how many there would be.
While sitting here in an airline lounge, I've just gone through my notes and counted the number of heat runs I saw this season.
That's a heckuva lot.
To put that figure in context, I'm usually happy to see a handful in a given season. Three or four would send me over the moon, so you can imagine how giddy I was each time I came across yet another heat run.
My brain isn't engaged enough right now to compose too detailed a post, so I thought I'd share some above-water photos from some recent heat-run action.
Pictured above is a female humpback whale breaching beside the lead escort in an action-packed heat run comprising at least five adult whales. As I alluded to in Part 3, females that are the center of activity in a heat run often seem to revel in the attention.
They breach often, sometimes doing forward face-flops as pictured above, and they perform and display at the surface a lot (as well as underwater, of course), with pectoral fin antics being a common sight.
The males, in the meantime, are usually busy doing boy stuff, like rocketing out of the water next to a rival:
...creating cascades of water when they erupt from the depths to breathe, snort and grunt.
Here's a feisty male charging into the fluke of another boy in front of him:
And here's a particularly pugnacious male doing a sideways lunge to deliver a karate-chop body-blow to a competitor:
Male humpbacks have a considerable repertoire of moves they use in these competitive situations.
Besides lunges, body-slams and the like, one of the most impressive demonstrations of power and athleticism is when a whale flares its pectoral fins out and pulls up into a vertical position, effectively coming to a complete stop, like a fighter jet that intentionally pulls up to stall.
Lead escorts seem to like using this manoeuvre to block challengers, forcing trailing males to turn on a dime or end up colliding headfirst into a solid whale wall. I've seen males execute this move many times, but it happens so quickly and without warning that I've never succeeded in getting a decent photo, until now:
Many of the heat runs this season have featured lots of breaching, which is always great fun to watch:
But...even though humpbacks weigh-in at 40 tonnes or more, it's remarkably easy to miss one launching itself out of the water right beside you, as can be seen here:
Amazingly, no one seemed to notice when the humpback whale crashed into the water next to them either:
Almost time to get on the next plane. More to come later.