The Truth about Whale Watching: Part Two

ANZ Dec 13Back in 2011 I wrote a post called Whale Watching on the Gold Coast, Australia and in it you will see a video called The Truth About Whale Watching.

Last week I featured a reprint of one of my Australia and New Zealand magazine articles which was called Whale Watching in Australia: What’s it Really Like? That had even more stuff about whale watching.

So, that’s it then. There’s nothing more to be said about it, is there?

Or is there?

Here’s another reprint; as you will see, the magazine readers had to wait a month for this follow-up, you, my lucky readers, only needed to wait a week. The magazine, you won’t be surprised to hear, didn’t have these videos either…

Whale watching

Last month I Pommy whinged about whale watching, complaining that the best shot I got from a whale watching boat trip could have easily been ‘a bald discarded HGV tyre floating in the distance’.

Whale sighting zoomJust as, on the surface, that’s what it might have looked like, on the face of it, whale watching might simply appear to be watching for whales. There’s more to it than that. On a recent trip to Hervey Bay I found out.

This is a beach on Hervey Bay…

Hervey Bay with Fraser… notice the island shelter in the distance and how calm the sea is? I’ll get to that in a minute.

Hervey Bay could easily be described as a quiet seaside town 300 kilometres or so north of Brisbane. That’s what we thought until we got there and found out there was something special about Hervey Bay, particularly to the whale world.

Hervey Bay is often referred to as ‘the whale watching capital of the world’ and it’s a place where whales go to play.

That’s right, it’s their playground.

Here’s what happens; every year thousands of humpback whales travel from Antarctica to the warmer waters of North Queensland, a journey of some 10,000 kilometres. That’s where some give birth to their calves who would not have survived being delivered in the icy waters of the Antarctic.

Job done, they have to return and let’s face it, it’s a very long journey for a newborn. So they stop off at Hervey Bay for rest and play, a kind of whale holiday.

We humans, being rather smart, have realised that these whales visit Hervey Bay at the same time each year, so we go whale watching. The whales, for their part, love the waters in the area because they are sheltered by Fraser Island, which just happens to be the world’s largest sand island.

Yes, Fraser Island, that’s the thing you saw in the distance in the above picture, now here’s some of the sand…

Fraser IsBut what they seem to love the most apart from the rest is, would you believe, human watching.

Yes, seriously.

First though, the whales have to get your attention and they do that by approaching a boat and doing what whale’s do; breaching, lobtailing, slapping and rolling around together. Then when they get your attention and if they want to, they will pop their heads up in ‘spyhopping’ mode and ‘mug’ you, or in other words stare at you for a minute or so at a time.

This is a whale mugging…

This prompts the question, “who is watching who?” As humans watch whales and whales watch humans, there’s only one thing I’m sure about; only the whales aren’t paying.

Whales are fascinating creatures; each year when they turn up they sing a new “song”. This song always has elements of last year’s song, but they never repeat an old song. The songs are a complex combination of clicks, rhyming phrases and rhythms and individual whales sing their own version of this song.

Here’s a song for you…

Both videos, by the way, were taken at Hervey Bay.

We also know that the same whales often return each year; every humpback whale that passes through Hervey Bay has been named and identified, their tails are as individual as fingerprints. But why do they go back to icy cold Antarctica?

To eat some yummy krill of course.

Hervey Bay is definitely the place to whale watch around here, unfortunately for us, we were there in the summer, that’s not the time to see whales. But come the peak whale watching season, around late July to the end of October, we’ll be back to watch them play, that’s for sure.

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