You are here: HomeRescues → 2011, May 28, Minke Whale, Doubtless Bay

On the afternoon of the 28th of May 2011 a Minke whale was observed swimming close to shore.  Just on dusk the whale came in very close to the beach and people from the Whatuwhiwhi area held it and supported it for a few hours.

It’s breathing was very rapid and laboured and the whale lifted it’s head high out of the water for each breath. Additionally the whale was actively rolling from side to side. 

By 2100 hrs (9 pm) the rescuers noted that the whale had appeared to have calmed down considerably and it’s breathing rate was slower.  The whale began swimming towards rocks at the eastern side of the bay, so was guided into deeper water.  It then swam off, heading South-West, towards the Doubtless Bay inner area. 

Unfortunately, because it was early evening when the whale completely stranded no photographs were taken, so we can’t establish if it was a ‘common’ Minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata), a dwarf Minke whale (thought to be a subspecies) or an ‘Antarctic’ Minke whale (Balaenoptera bonarensis) which is also found in New Zealand waters.  The rescuers describe the whale at between 6-8 m long, which means it could have been any one of these species.

Whale Rescue was in contact with the rescuers on the beach during the evening of the 28th May and was requested by Department of Conservation to attend on the 29th May to assist with a coastal search of Doubtless Bay, in case the whale had restranded.  Wendy Turner and Ingrid Visser left Tutukaka at 0530 hours and arrived in Mangonui at 0830 hours to begin the search.  They were accompanied by Lester Bridson from the Department of Conservation and searched the whole coastline of Doubtless Bay.

Despite searching over 50 km of coastline, where each and every bay and cove was checked, no sign of the whale, either on the beach or at sea, was made.  The searchers did discover a group of six bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), one of which had a distinctive spinal deformity (scoliosis).  Floppy (Jo) Haliday (also of Whale Rescue) confirmed that a dolphin of this description, known as “Two-Stroke” has been observed recently in the Bay of Islands.  The Whale Rescue crew returned to Tutukaka, but remained on stand-by for the following two days, in case the whale restranded.

Quick Facts

Name Minke Whale
Minke Whale
Suborder Mysticeti
Family Balaenopteridae
Max. size - Male 10.2 m (33 ft)
Max. size - Female 9.4 m (31 ft)
Calf size 3 m (10 ft)
Max. weight - Male 10 tons
Max. weight - Female 10 tons
Calf weight 450 kg (1000 lb)
Food krill, small fish, copepods
Latin name Balaenoptera acutorostrata
Location Doubtless Bay, Northland
Latitude -34.97994
Longitude 173.42276
Number of Whales 1
Number rescued/saved 1
At this rescue

Dr. Ingrid N. Visser – Whale Rescue Co-Founder

Dr. Ingrid N. Visser – Whale Rescue Co-Founder

Ingrid has attended numerous mass and individual strandings.  She is experienced in sampling and data collection at these events, and in the use of refloatation Rescue Pontoons and other rescue equipment.  She has served on the Board and was a trainer for another stranding rescue group.


Location of Rescue

Help Us

Whale Rescue is a volunteer organisation, run by volunteers. There are lots of different ways that you can help us to continue rescuing whales and dolphins.

Find out more ››