Wellington workers late as huge whale frolics in inner city harbour

Wellington workers paused on their morning commute as a huge southern right whale spent its third day frolicking in the inner city harbour.

Southern right whales were almost wiped out by whalers - the 'right' in their name refers to the fact they were the 'right' whales to catch. The fact they swim close to shore and are large enough to provide a lot of meat, oil and whalebone meant they were targeted by early whalers.

People watch as the whale plays in Wellington Harbour.
People watch as the whale plays in Wellington Harbour. Photo credit: Anna Bracewell-Worrall/Newshub.
The whale breaches.
The whale breaches. Photo credit: Anna Bracewell-Worrall/Newshub.
Down with a splash!
Down with a splash! Photo credit: Anna Bracewell-Worrall/Newshub.

Adult southern rights average 14-15 metres in length.

The city's harbourside quays are a popular commuter route, so crowds quickly gathered as the whale breached and splashed through the bay.

Many commented on how late they were for work, but struggled to look away from the whale.

"I just want to see it again. I'm whale chasing," one woman told Newshub. She'd seen the whale near the Interisland ferry terminal on Wednesday evening.

"It was so majestic and beautiful," she said.

Another whale watcher Asher saw people posting about the whale on social media and raced down to check it out.

"I've seen it breach a couple of times, once head-first and twice with tail flukes slapping down on the water. It's pretty special," he said.

Some took to water craft to get a closer view of the whale.

Paddleboarders check out the southern right whale
Paddleboarders check out the southern right whale Photo credit: Newshub.
Kayakers in Wellington Harbour.
Kayakers in Wellington Harbour. Photo credit: Newshub.

Boaters are required to stay at least 50m from whales at all times, with a 'no wake' speed within 300m.