Re: Albatross & whales off Point Lonsdale, Vic

To: (Birding Aus)
Subject: Re: Albatross & whales off Point Lonsdale, Vic
From: Paul Taylor <>
Date: Mon, 28 Jul 1997 22:25:34 +1000 (EST)
> [snip]
> Perhaps as interesting as the albatross sightings was the discovery of
> 2+ whales also feeding in "The Rip". My description follows - if anyone
> can suggest what species they were, I'd love to hear from you. They were
> larger than a dolphin, uniform grey brown and swam slowly. Of the two,
> one was much larger with a distintive dorsal fin which swept back and
> made a very acute angle with its back. The dorsal fin was mobile and
> flopped a little from side to side as it swam.

How much bigger than the dolphins were they?  One possibility is
Long-finned Pilot Whales where the male has a more bulbous and swept-back
dorsal fin than the female; the colour is jet black or dark grey, but can
appear chocolate brown.  The adult size range is 3.8-6m long which could
explain the size difference you saw; an adult with young in another option.
It may also be that the floppy fin was actually a flipper - I've seen
Humpback Whales "waving" on a Wollongong pelagic trip, and with some
cetaceans they could be mistaken for a fin.

BTW, the information above is taken from the Collins Eyewitness Handbook
"Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises" by Mark Carwardine, published in 1995 by
Harper Collins.  It is an excellent field guide to cetaceans - the best
I have seen, and around $30.  It has a useful identification key at the
front with the cetaceans sorted by size groups, and detailed individual
species accounts with key features highlighted, colour variations,
behaviours etc.  It even includes details of Longman's Beaked Whale,
which is known only from two skulls (one from Mackay in 1882), and an
unidentified beaked whale known only from 30 reported sightings at sea.
Well worth buying!

   Paul Taylor

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