Humpback whale mother pushes her sleeping calf to surface, Maui, Hawaii, USA
© Ralph Pace/Minden Picture
A whale of a picture
The family drama you see playing out here in the Pacific Ocean is a humpback whale calf getting a little nudge from its mum. Maybe she wants the sleepy youngster to practice surfacing in dramatic fashion, something for which these amazing marine mammals are famous. Winter is calving season, when thousands of humpbacks swim to the warm waters off Hawaii, where they are often spotted between November and April. Because they're known to hang around near the ocean's surface, breaching or slapping the water with their tails, humpbacks are a favourite with whale watchers everywhere.
Most humpbacks are nomadic and can be found in all the oceans of the world. Some populations travel for up to 5,000 miles as they move from breeding grounds in warmer, tropical waters, to colder areas where food is more plentiful. And when they eat, they don't mess around, consuming up to 2,000lbs (907kg) of food each day. They eat tiny crustaceans called krill, as well as small fish. Once driven to the verge of extinction by commercial whaling, legal protections have helped the humpback population to rebound to somewhere around 80,000 worldwide.