Humpback whale puts on dazzling display in Northland


A Northland couple was treated to an extraordinary display from what was believed to be a humpback whale last month but there was more to the surprise than meets the eye.

Hayley Pyle was out fishing with her husband off the coast of Whangārei Heads on August 25 as the couple made the most of the beautiful weather.

The day was also the seven-year anniversary of the death of Pyle’s dad, John Reed. He had spent his life on the sea and was a marine engineer.

That morning, Pyle had asked her dad for a sign that he was “doing okay.


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Hayley Pyle on her wedding day with father, John Reed.
Hayley Pyle on her wedding day with father, John Reed.

“We went for a fish and were just cruising back toward the Bream Head when all of a sudden a humpback whale breach jumped right in front of us.”

The whale, thought to be around 15m long, stayed nearby for the next hour. Pyle said it breached over and over while the amazed Waipū couple watched on.

“It was just the most surreal experience of my life, to be honest,” she said.

“I’ve never seen a whale before, and it was on my dad’s anniversary. It was just a surreal, heartwarming moment.”


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According to the Department of Conservation, humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) are easy to identify.

They’re well-known for their spectacular breaching and complex songs. They have a small dorsal fun with a distinctive hump at the front and have a unique black and white colour pattern.

Generally, humpbacks are black with white on the underside and flippers.

Humpback whales are frequent visitors to the southern hemisphere when undertaking seasonal long-distance migrations. They tend to return to the west coast during spring.

People can report sightings of whales to the DoC conservation hotline 0800 DOCHOT (0800 362 468), or report a sighting online.

The DoC website states that reports of sightings are valuable to help increase the knowledge of whale distribution and movements around Aotearoa.

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