Off the coast of Australia's New South Wales state this month local people have been able to catch a rare sight of a whale that came close to land to give birth to a calf.
AV ZOOM IN Whale near to shore with young whale beside (3 shots)
GV AND SV ??? Summerhayes, Marine Biologist looking through binoculars (2 shots)
SCU Summerhill speaking
AV Whales in water
Underwater SV baby whale feeding from mother (3 shots)
AV whales near to surface of sea
Underwater Sv whales; diver touching tail (3 shots)
AV whales near surface (3 shots)
REPORTER: "People on the south coast of New South Wales have recently been host to some unusual visitors. About four weeks ago, a 17 metre whale came within 50 metre of shore near ??? to give birth to a calf. And, while mother and calf gained strength, for their eventual long journey south to the Antarctic, the locals jealously guarded the pair, and prevented sightseers from disturbing them. The species is known as the Right Whale, so-called because for centuries it was the right whale to kill; a slow and sluggish swimmer, easy to harpoon. Soames Summerhayes, a marine biologist studied and swam with the whale while she was here.
SUMMERHAYES: "The Right whale comes to calve in certain areas off South Africa and off South America and probably off Australia and Tasmania and New Zealand at one time; and I think possibly that this is some innate memory taken from way way back that it has come back to this area."
REPORTER: "If you watch closely, we have rare footage of the calf suckling. He feeds several times an hour, a few seconds at a time. The mother forcibly ejects milk into the calf's mouth; as much as 70 gallons a day."
SUMMERHAYES: "When she comes up here she comes to give birth to her calf and she doesn't eat, or she eats very very little during the time that she is up here, so she has to rely on her fats, her reserve supplies of blubber to give birth to the calf and to feed the calf...so the calf is gaining weight incredibly fast, like five pounds (2.3 killogrammes) and hour, every hour, every day of the week and she has to provide an enormous amount of food for it. She is losing weight fast because she doesn't have the planktonic food here which would enable her to feed the calf, so she gets it down in the sub-Antarctic. She'll migrate back down there, she is on her way now."
REPORTER: "Soames was elated at swimming with her and seeing the calf close up."
SUMMERHAYES: "She's just a vast tank-like creature and the water is not sufficiently clear that you could see any part of her, all of her at once. So when you swam up to her you just saw the head looming out; this big, big black head and she was so gentle, and so good with us, even when she couldn't see us, when we were down her tail end she knew that we were there."
REPORTER: "Last week mother and baby left their haven and headed south. 35 whaling stations in Tasmania along were set up in the early part of this century to harpoon the mammals, decimating their numbers, until they were virtually non-existent on the Australian coast. Now, with the increased awareness of conservation, it's hoped Australians will be privileged to see many more Right whales closest to our shores."
REPORTER: BRIAN HENDERSON
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Background: Off the coast of Australia's New South Wales state this month local people have been able to catch a rare sight of a whale that came close to land to give birth to a calf. Here is a report from Brian Henderson of Sydney's TCN 9 station.