Brett Vercoe of the Solitary Islands Marine Park Authority studies a humpback and calf.
Brett Vercoe of the Solitary Islands Marine Park Authority studies a humpback and calf. Mark Spencer

In the whales realm

HERE'S a rare and beautiful insight into the humpback whale migration captured right here on the Coffs Coast.

As underwater photographer Mark Spencer and researcher with the Solitary Islands Marine Park Authority Brett Vercoe steadied their lens, out of the deep blue cruised the inquistive mother and calf.

The free-divers have been photo-documenting the whales under a specialised government permit.

"We have found opportunities to photograph the animals underwater only happen when the whales take the initiative to swim within a close range of us, while we hang relatively motionless just under the surface on a breath of air," Mr Spencer said.

New research shows a record 16,000 humpbacks are expected to return to Antartica from now until November - 1500 more than last year.

Dr Michael Noad, head of the East Coast Australian Humpback Whale Population survey, said a four-year University of Queensland study shows the migrating humpback population has recovered to what it was pre-whaling.