Southern Right Whales really were too big to fit onto the pages of At the Beach!
They are pretty special whales fighting their way back from near extinction.
This recent article http://www.stuff.co.nz/science/8514824/Southern-Right-Whale-sightings-on-the-rise says that between 2003 and 2010 there were 28 mother-calf pair sightings around New Zealand. This may not sound like many, but this is an increase in numbers from before 2003.
I wonder if they've counted a sighting by me and some friends off of Banks Peninsula back in 2009.
At the time we didn't know what kind of whales we were looking at. It wasn't until I got home and checked online that we realised we'd seen rare Southern Right Whales. I rang the special DOC Hot line to report the sighting but it was several days late and they didn't seem that interested, probably because the whales would have moved on by then so they couldn't send scientists out to look at them.
Southern Right Whales don't have a dorsal fin (that's the fin on the back of some whales) so have a smooth shaped back. They also have flippers which are a squarish shape, you can see one in the picture above.
Here's a great online identification guide http://www.environment.gov.au/coasts/species/cetaceans/whale-watching/identification.html which I found useful.