Southern Right Whale – Sailing (Tail)
Occasionally whales lift their tails clear of water for long periods. The tail is held aloft for an extended period of time, like a giant black butterfly. They turn their tales to get the advantage of the wind, much like a sail in the wind. This could mean catching wind to ‘sail’ through the water or a way of cooling down. Another view is that this represents a form of temperature control for the body, either through solar radiation or evaporative cooling as the blood vessels in the tail form a counter current system much like a radiator. A third option is that the whale is feeding on organisms close to the sea-floor.
Did you know … Cruising speed 0.5-4km/hr (0.25-22 knots)? Top speed possibly 14km/hr (9 knots). In coastal waters most dives are between 4 and 8 minutes in duration; in Open Ocean dives may last longer.