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September 8, 2018

Black Betty – Familiar Fluke

Black Betty – Familiar Fluke

This months familiar Fluke is “BLACK BETTY” – a crowd favourite!

Some of our friends, followers and passengers may remember a nearly completely black whale we encountered inside Jervis Bay last October. She was here with her calf for 3-4 days and was pretty easy to recognise due to her pigmentation.  The great majority of Humpback Whales (post whaling) that we see here on the East Coast of Australia have White bellies. (previously we may have seen more)


Upon some further research and information provided by Marine Mammal Research we learned there are four types of known Humpback whale pigmentation! While we commonly encounter type 2- “white colouration extends to the body mid line or slightly above, with colouration generally observed in the area of the caudal peduncle” . The lovely lady ‘Black Betty’ could be ascribed to pigment ‘type 4’ “lack of obvious pigmentation patterns” (See FIG.8- Pigementation).


While the breeding grounds of northern hemisphere and southern hemisphere humpback whales are different and are converged on at different times of the year. It is possible that when whales migrate to their respective hemisphere breeding grounds sometimes they could, keep travelling/swimming and cross over to the others breeding grounds and a mix may then be breed into the other hemisphere migrating population!

So, Black betty could be a combination of true Type 4. full black humpback whale. With ancestry from the northern hemisphere now part of a new generation sub group of calf that have come from the cross over with our southern hemisphere Cow’s (mother) or Bulls (male).

Whales such as ‘Black Betty’ are now travelling on the  Australian east coast migration. Our sighting and others accounted from Queensland in recent years of calves and adults within this new population, post east coast whaling days. Or, it could also be a case of whales not exposing their dark undersides (type 4 pigmentation) unless breaching or viewed at closer proximity.

Reagardless; How wild!

We hope to see Black Betty and other ‘type 4 pigmentation whales’ this migration- keep your eyes out or join us for a cruise for your chance to meet a special humpback whale. Stay tuned for our next blog/ post to look at southern hemisphere whales more specifically…

"I really respect that the whale was more important than us"

Arrived just in time from our overnight stay in Canberra to go on the cruise. We got to see two whales swimming and breaching. Was a spectacular sight. The operators stayed what I though was a decent distance from the whales and when they had gone into the bay and another operator went in further than we did our guy decided that we would move away to give the whales space to get out of the bay. I really respect that the whale was more important that us . Well done