A special morning with a Dwarf Minke Whale

Dwarf Minke Whale sighting on our Seal & Ocean Expedition

Dwarf Minke Whale in Tasmania
The lucky passengers of yesterday’s Seal & Ocean Expedition got to watch a Dwarf Minke Whale – A rare sight on Tasmania’s coastline!

Cruising back up the coast from our Seal haul-out spot, we stopped for some play-time with a few curious Common Dolphins. Just as we were about to leave, we saw a dorsal fin pop up that didn’t quite look like a dolphin dorsal. After a quick scan, we saw the white lips of this beautiful Dwarf Minke Whale appear. 🙂

What does a Dwarf Minke Whale actually look like?

Most of our crew onboard knew that there was a good chance to spot some Humpback Whales, as they travel past our coastline to their main feeding grounds in Antarctic waters at this time of the year. But to see a Dwarf Minke Whale was quite a surprise and nobody really knew what to expect.

Distinctive white flipper of Dwarf Minke Whale
The Dwarf Minke Whales have a very distinctive white patch on their flippers, unlike the light gray flippers of the Antarctic Minke Whales.

Minke Whales are amongst the smallest of the baleen whales. There are two species of Minke. One is the Common Minke which is restricted to the Northern Hemisphere with a dwarf subspecies occurring in the Southern Hemisphere. The Dwarf Minke reaches up to 7m in length. They were first recognised as a distinct species in the mid 1980s, when they attracted attention in northern Great Barrier Reef waters because they regularly approached close to boats and swimmers. The second is the Antarctic Southern Minke which can grow up to 9m.

Dorsal fin of a Dwarf Minke Whale
The dorsal fin of Dwarf Minke Whales sits further back on their body compared to a dolphin’s dorsal fin.

Both the Dwarf Minke Whale and the Antarctic Southern Minke Whale occur in Tasmanian waters, however they are generally seen offshore during their migration North to their breeding grounds or on their return South over spring to early summer.

The best identifying features to distinguish the Dwarf Minke Whale from the Antarctic Southern Minke Whale are the smaller size and the white patch on their flippers. The Antarctic species has light grey flippers and the dorsal fin is located far back on their bodies.

Dwarf Minke Whales are known for their inquisitive behaviour

Close encounter with Dwarf Minke Whale
The Dwarf Minke Whale displayed a very inquisitive behaviour which is common in this species.

Whale-watching tour operators and tourists alike love to see the Dwarf Minke Whales in the northern Great Barrier Reef during the winter months, because they are generally very inquisitive. And so was our Dwarf Minke that we saw yesterday. It stayed with us for over half an hour, crossing from left to right under our bow and turned around to approach us from behind. A behaviour similar to that of a dolphin. Our guests certainly got to take lots of photos and great memories home from this encounter!

Observing the inquisitive Dwarf Minke Whale.
Observing the inquisitive Dwarf Minke Whale.

Speak up against whaling!

To see how trustingly this wild animal approached us and to observe such an amazing behaviour must encourage people to speak up for these intelligent creatures. Despite the 1986 IWC ban on commercial whaling, some countries refuse to end their whaling operations and use a loophole which allows for scientific whaling. Every year, Japan, Norway and Iceland kill around 1,500 whales between them. They generally die a slow painful death, as there is no humane way to kill a whale at sea.. Watch this video that was recently released by Sea Shepherd Australia.

If you would like to learn more about whales in Australian waters and see Tasmania’s rugged coastline, check out our tour options and join us on your next holiday in Tassie!