humpback whale

By Tui Benjamin 

A boatload of tourists were left stunned when a 30 tonne ‘show off’ humpback whale performed a never-before-seen ‘headstand’ just metres from them.

Peter Chai was amazed to capture the bizarre spectacle – which saw the huge 49ft long whale breach before pointing its tail skywards – just outside Sydney Harbour, Australia.


The British expat believes the young humpback performed the unusual move deliberately to show off for a nearby boatload of camera-toting tourists just 20 metres (66ft) away.

And Peter, 53, said he has witnessed the rare event only a handful of times – meaning the boatload of holidaymakers certainly were some of the luckiest whale watchers ever.

Peter, who was on board a Whale Watching Sydney vessel, said: “This whale was breaching a lot, doing a lot of acrobatics in the air, but this headstand was very unusual.


“It was a young juvenile whale and I think it was for the benefit of the boat of people that was looking at it.

“Humpback whales will sometimes perform tail slaps but I have never seen themselves raise their tail upwards out of the water like that.

“Usually they just slap it a little bit out of the water, but this kind of reverse breach is very unusual – they are very few and far between.

“In fact they are actually very inquisitive – you may see them do breaches when there are no boats or humans around, but it is not often you would see something unusual like this.

“It is like it did it for the tourists – they definitely do show off for the boats. I am pretty sure it is a ‘look, I am here’ type of thing. It looked like a headstand or a handstand.”


Humpback whales – who measure 15 metres (49ft) long on average and weigh up to 45 tonnes – are currently passing past Sydney as they make their annual northern migration from Antarctica to warmer waters near northern Queensland, Fiji and Tonga to give birth.

The migration begins in mid-May and the whales travel back past Sydney with their calves in October and November with the annual spectacle over by early December.

Peter captured these snaps off the coat of North Head, just outside Sydney Harbour, about 1km away from the shore.

And he said the lucky whale watchers raised the roof when they realised they were witnessing such an unusual spectacle.

Peter said: “There is always lots of whooping and hollering from the tourists and this time was no exception – often they have never seen a whale before.

“When the humpbacks do their acrobatics up close it is amazing, this one you could even see the barnacles on its tail.

“Often breaches are a bit of a warning to the boat but this just goes to show the whales are not afraid of the boatloads of people.”