Huge Whale Returns to Wellington Harbor.

For a week in July, residents in the capital city of Wellington, were thrilled to see that a huge whale had taken up temporary residence in their harbor. Today, a whale has once again sighted, but this time there's a difference; now the whale has a calf in tow! Everyone is now anxiously waiting for confirmation from the Department of Conversation that it's the same whale that visited last month.
Whale in Wellington Harbor

From New Zealand Herald reporter Katrina Bennett

Whales are back delighting onlookers in Wellington.

A Department of Conservation spokesman said there were several southern right whales in this region of the North Island at the moment, including the mother and her calf in Wellington harbour, and potentially another pair on the Kapiti Coast, about 32-miles north of the capital.

The sightings have raised excitement for some, hoping one is the same that visited last month, forcing the capital's Matariki fireworks display to be postponed. But a Department of Conservation spokesman said it was too early to know whether one of these whales was the same.

"We have yet to assess sufficiently detailed photos to determine if they are known individuals."

The whale that visited Wellington harbor in July stuck around for a week, splashing about in the waves and bringing traffic to a standstill.


A great shot of the July visitor to Wellington Harbor

Eleanor Ainge Roy of the English newspaper The Guardian filed this report about the original whale visit in July.

A huge southern right whale frolicking in Wellington harbour has brought the capital’s waterfront to a standstill as locals skip work to catch a glimpse of the animal.

Southern right whales used to be a common sight in Wellington harbour, but 150 years of whaling from the 17th century brought them to the brink of extinction.

Known as Tohora in New Zealand, the whales were targeted because of their propensity to swim close to the shore, their huge quantities of flesh and approachability.

According to the Department of Conservation - DOC - the whales are now rare in New Zealand waters, with DOC urging the public to help with their conservation by reporting any sightings.

“Your help is urgently sought to look out for tohora around New Zealand and to report sightings immediately,” a plea on its website reads.

The whale currently making its home in Wellington harbour – less than a mile as the crow flies from parliament house – is quickly becoming a favourite with locals, who have described it as “iconic”, “beautiful” and “majestic” .


Another great shot. In the background, 'The Beehive" New Zealand's parliament building.

During the breeding season in the southern hemisphere’s winter and spring southern right whales are usually found in the sub-Antarctic Auckland and Campbell Islands, so the appearance of the creature in the capital’s harbour is unusual.

DOC has urged people to stay 50m clear of the whale, but some locals have taken paddle boards and row boats to get a closer look.

Wellington’s council – which has postponed a harbour fireworks display on Saturday night in case it disturbs the visitor – said Wellingtonians had fallen in love with the whale, and did not want it harmed in any way.

“We at Wellington city council are waiting on some advice from experts at the New Zealand Department of Conservation re whether the sound of exploding fireworks will be harmful to the whale if it’s in the vicinity of the fireworks display tomorrow night,” said media manager Richard MacLean.

“This morning the whale was again seen breaching and frolicking in the harbour – and we’re getting lots of ‘save the whale’ sentiment from local people who’ve been captivated by its antics over the past few days.

“We’ve had traffic coming to a standstill on the motorway and other harbourside roads ... the whale is making everyone very happy and work in many offices has been disrupted by whale-watching.”

According a Newshub poll, 90% of respondents would rather see the whale stay in the harbour undisturbed, and have the fireworks rescheduled or cancelled.

PS - next day, the annual fireworks display was cancelled.

Footnote - a day after this blog was posted, the Department of Conservation confirmed that the whale was not one that had made the earlier visit in July.

Lindsay Barron

Lindsay Barron • Aug 28, 2018