Wed 8: Humpback whales

Singing the songlines of humpback whales.

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Below are some talking points and activities to pass the time, all relating to today’s story. If young readers find it tricky; just look at the pictures and read the captions to figure it out.

Talking points

Discuss the ideas presented in the story with your family—at home or over video conferencing. Find ways to involve as many people as possible, especially those who you know are isolated by the lock-down.

  • Humpback whales have exceptionally long pectoral fins. On their heads are bumps which are actually large hair follicles. Can you see either of these in the top photo? Are there any other features you find interesting?
  • Are you surprised by how far humpbacks in the southern hemisphere travel every year? Do you think it makes sense to feed in Antarctica in the summer and calve in the tropics in the winter? Why do you think each location might be suited to the humpback’s needs?
  • A baby humpback drinks about 200 litres of milk a day. How many 2 litre milk cartons would that be? Do you think you could fit one day’s milk supply in your fridge?
  • Humpbacks communicate with pulses of sound that are louder than a jet engine and could rupture human eardrums; these pulses can travel thousands of kilometres through seawater. Why might that be useful to the humpback?
  • Whale-watching is important to the Tongan economy. Would you like to go there to see humpbacks some day? Can you think of anything we can do as New Zealanders to help look after humpback whales?

Task—Dancing “Whale” Raisins

An adult humpback weighs about 30 tonnes—that’s six average-sized African elephants. How does such a heavy animal avoid sinking?

Explore the idea of buoyancy—how pockets of air (like those in a whale’s lungs) make heavy things float—by making dancing “whales” with raisins.

  • Get a large glass jar (a small jar may fizz over and spill)
  • Fill to about 1/3 way up with water.
  • Add 1/3 cup of white vinegar.
  • Add 2 tsp of baking soda.
  • Stir gently.
  • Add 10-15 raisins and watch what happens!

The raisins will sink to the bottom but after a few moments, you’ll hopefully notice them rising one by one. What makes them rise?

Can you see how each rising raisin is surrounded by air bubbles? Baking soda and vinegar react to produce bubbles of carbon dioxide. These bubbles are lighter than water so they cancel out the weight of the raisin, lifting it to the surface. Can you figure out why the raisins fall again after a while?

Get Creative

Feel like making an origami whale?  Follow these simple instructions

  • Rule up a diamond shape and mark on a triangle with dotted lines.
  • Cut out the diamond.

  • Fold along the dotted lines to make a triangle.

  • Fold this triangle in half.

  • Fold the sharp end of the triangle to make a tail. You can cut into it a bit to make the tail flukes spread out.

  • Draw fins and a face onto your whale.