A whale, believed to be of the rarely-seen dwarf minke
variety, frolics in Otago Harbour. Photo by Sean Heseltine.
Two groups of tourists on Dunedin wildlife tours have
certainly had their money's worth in recent days, spotting what
is believed to be a rarely-seen dwarf minke whale.
Fifteen visitors on an Elm Wildlife Tours Otago Peninsula
tour last Wednesday saw the small brown whale circling in the
ocean below Cape Saunders, while 40 people aboard the Monarch
wildlife cruise vessel saw apparently the same whale diving
and surfacing in Otago Harbour on Saturday.
Monarch skipper Sean Heseltine said yesterday the
whale, which was about 5m long and a blotchy brown colour,
stayed in view for about four hours. He was "about 95%" sure
it was a dwarf minke after comparing photos taken on the
cruise to those in a book.
Both he and Elm Tours owner Brian Templeton said it was rare
to see a minke, although southern right whales were spotted
reasonably regularly, generally swimming beyond Taiaroa Head.
Department of Conservation coastal marine ranger Jim Fyfe
said last night while he had not seen the whale himself, its
size and colour indicated it was probably a dwarf minke.
Dwarf minkes live in the Southern Ocean and grow to a length
of 8m. They are commonly seen on the Great Barrier reef and
have also been seen in New Zealand, New Caledonian, South
African and South American waters.
A dead newborn minke was washed up at Aramoana in June 2003,
while a newborn "mystery whale" also thought to be a minke or
dwarf minke was washed up dead at Warrington Beach the
Not much was known about the travel patterns of dwarf minkes,
Mr Fyfe said.
"They are one of the more common whales in the world but not
commonly encountered in New Zealand. We are interested in
finding out a lot more about them."
The actions of the latest minke visitor indicated it was
feeding on krill, he said, and might remain in the area for