Whale breaching, otherwise known as cresting, is when whales jump clear out of the water and make an enormous sound as their giant body and tail slaps the water on its way back down. It’s a marvellous sight to see something so beautiful and majestic, in all its glory. It’s a sight you won’t forget any time soon. It may even take your breath away!
Humpback whales are one of the most acrobatic whales. They can reveal three quarters of their length or more when emerging from the water. Sperm and right whales are also known for being good jumpers.
Humpback whales can often breach multiple times over a few minutes. You may even see them breaching as a pair or in a group, taking turns in the water.
Whales tend to breach on slightly windy to very windy days when the water is choppy. They will breach day or night.
There are a few good theories as to why whales breach, although nobody knows for sure!
• Play: Perhaps they like a little frolic or to put on a show for keen whale watchers! It certainly does look like they are entertaining themselves as they entertain the human observers.
• Loosening parasites: One idea is that whale breaching loosens or shakes off any parasites, or other organisms that tend to grow on the outside of their skin. It might get quite itchy and irritating, so breaching may be their way of giving themselves a good scratch as they hit the water hard!
• To communicate: Breaching might be a sign of both verbal and non-verbal communication. Sometimes, whales can be seen breaching in an aggressive manner, bringing their belly down full force into the water possibly to scare away a predator that is under the sea. Whales also make sound as they breach, especially on windy days when the water is choppy. Perhaps they are better heard above the water where the acoustics are improved as they call out a warning signal to each other.
• Socialising: Adult humpbacks are often seen teaching younger ones to breach, indicating that whale breaching may be an important part of socialising and interacting with other whales in their environment. It is also a way for parent and baby to bond.