A female humpback whale that stranded on a sandbank off Australia's eastern coast this week has finally managed to free herself with the help of rising tides and her calf, who was filmed apparently nudging its mother back into deeper water.

According to reports, the mother and calf were first seen struggling near North Stradbroke Island (about 100 kilometres, or 62 miles, from Brisbane) on Thursday evening, before successfully freeing themselves. The adult humpback, however, found herself in trouble again the next morning when she re-stranded even closer to the shore.

Aerial footage of the scene appears to show the youngster coming to its mother's aid and attempting to "nudge" her off the sandbank, but it's very possible that the calf's behaviour was simply a result of its distress. It's likely that in sticking so close to mom, the young whale inadvertently helped to push her from the sandbank.

A team from Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services (QPWS) rushed to the scene to help stabilise the whale while further assistance from Sea World was on its way. However, after about 40 minutes of splashing and flailing on the sandbank, the whale finally swam free as the tide came in.

"Both mum and bub are doing well and we've been keeping an eye on them to make sure they clear the shallow waters," Queensland National Parks wrote on Facebook, adding that boats should stay clear and give the whales some space if they are spotted.

Humpbacks are found in all of the world's oceans and are a fairly common sight off the Queensland coast at this time of year. At the end of autumn, the whales migrate north to warmer Pacific waters to give birth and begin raising their calves, and will now likely be on their way back towards Antarctica.

Whale stranding has been linked to everything from ocean currents to magnetic fields, but in this case, it's possible that the humpback simply underestimated the height of the submerged sandbank and became stuck.


Header image: texaus1