Southern right whale diving in the Golfo Nuevo near the Valdes Peninsula
Giants of the Southern Ocean

Southern right whale

The end of September in the Southern Hemisphere means warming weather and the nearing of summer. For southern right whales like this one off the coast of Argentina, this means a transit southward toward Antarctica and rich feeding grounds. Southern right whales are a subspecies of right whale that inhabit the oceans below the equator. They feed on krill at the surface of the water, holding their mouths open as they swim through clouds of the tiny crustaceans.

Right whales got their names because they were the 'right' whale to hunt, desirable to whalers because they were relatively slow and floated when they died. Right whales are easily identifiable by the thick white calluses on their heads. They tend to be social and curious creatures and have been known to have close encounters with humans. They spend winters in warmer waters closer to the equator. The whale featured today surfaced off the Valdes Peninsula, home to the largest breeding population in the world, and a fitting location for the Southern Whale Natural Monument, created in 1984. In these protected waters, thousands of whales will mate and give birth, staying until October or November, when they will begin their great migration south.