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Whale Mugging. Who’s Watching Who?

Posted by:
Vanessa Pirotta
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Finned Facts
656x388-Whale-mugging J.Lowe

Once humpback whales have been up north to Queensland, typically to breed and calve (kind of like a whale party), it is then time for them to come back down the coast on their way back to Antarctica. This is often referred to as the southern migration. During this time, whales are often known to be very curious and are frequently observed mugging.

We spoke to Vanessa Pirotta, a Phd student at Macquarie University who’s also been to Antarctica to research whales and asked her about this whale behaviour.

“A mugging is a general term used to describe when a whale or more than one whale approaches a vessel and swims around it. During this period, a vessel is to remain in neutral and can sit back and enjoy the show”.


A common behaviour observed during a mugging is a spy hop, where a whale will bring its mouth and eyes out of the water.

“They are basically having a look around when they do this. Whales can be very curious and may find whale watchers and their boat interesting. This can be some of the best kind of whale watching. It also allows whale watchers to view those bumpy, rounded parts on their mouth, which are called tubercles”.

A whale may remain with a boat for a few minutes while others have been known to stay for or an hour or so.

“Once they have finished saying hello, they then depart to continue on their migration.”


Read about other whale behaviours here and for information on approach zones visit here.

*All images have been supplied by Jodie Lowe

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