A team from the Northern NZ Seabird Trust reported an unexpected sighting on their way back from a seabird survey of Rakitu (Arid) Island to Omaha last month.
Several kilometres west of Miners Head (between Aotea/Great Barrier Island and Hauturu/Little Barrier Island) they encountered five pygmy blue whales on a natural slick line. Chris Gaskin reports there had been lots of bird action just prior to the encounter.
“At first, we saw two whales, then three more, two of which joined the others. These were very large, pale grey (mottled or patchy) whales, with a high vertical blow, and very, very small fins long way back on the body. The whales were very active, rolling with pectoral fins out of the water on occasion, surging, stunning turquoise against the dark water. There were heaps of salps, krill, algae, seaweed, and feathers in the water – very low vis underwater sadly.”
– Chris Gaskin
This photo, along with others taken by Edin Whitehead, were used to confirm the whales as pigmy blue whales, a sub-species of the blue whale and known to be occasional visitors to the Gulf.