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Published: August 30th 2016
rWe have been visiting Hervey Bay off and on for over 20 years and have been amazed at its growth. Both the local population has grown, as has the tourist trade. The city has over 50,000 population, and at anytime, this sheltered bay attracts many visitors. Number one attraction during August to October is whale watching.
The Southern Hump Back Whales migrate from Antarctic waters north as far as New Guinea for the birth of their young, and then head south from August. The north bound migration uses currents that by pass Hervey bay, where as the currents on the south bound leg bring these not so beautiful mammals into the bay. Mothers and their young seem to spend more time as they fatten up the young before heading into icy waters. The babies put on around 50kg of weight a day as they head for a final adult weight of around 40 tonnes by age 30.
Hump back whales have no teeth nor tongue, so I was interested to learn that these mothers do not suckle their young, but excrete their milk (which is 45% fat) in sticky clumps in the water, and the babies suck the milk
through their baleen filters.
Also intriguing, the adults do not feed in these warmer waters. You will not find any krill off Queensland's coast, and it seems they do not eat much other fish either, unlike the other breeds of whales. So, during their 10,000km migration, they survive largely on using up stored energy (blubber). It has been suggested that they loose 50% of their blubber on their return trip.
The global southern waters were almost completely stripped of Humpback whales until whaling was both uneconomic and environmentally out lawed in the 1960s. Since then, these mammals of the sea have recovered their population such that the whale watching attraction at Hervey Bay is virtually guaranteed to thrill every visitor.
We booked a 3/4 day whale watching tour on The Spirit of Hervey Bay, a very comfortable and smooth catamaran that skips across Wide Bay and heads about 50ks north along the coast of Fraser Island to where viewing is best. Our first siting was a small minkie whale which decided to dive rather than entertain.
We soon ran into several pods of mothers and calves, but they were very quiet, just loafing around blowing bubbles.
Our Captain notices a lot of surface activity further North up Fraser, and soon we were in the area where several pods of whales were very active. All nature photography and observation is quite dependant on the luck of the day and having the camera up and ready, pointing the right way when the action starts.
We had been stopped for a little while when a male humpback came over to our bright yellow boat and started human watching. It seems that the males like to watch funny people waving, clapping and flashing cameras, and this fellow put on a display for the best part of an hour. The vessel has a platform at the rear that can be lowered right to the waterline, and some of the adventurous humans tried to pat a humpback. One young lass hung off the platform and splashed her hand in the water patiently each time the whale circled back. Her persistence was rewarded and we all heard her reaction - "Mum, I have patted a whale!" You can see her photo (blond at far right of platform) as she touched the whale and then spins around to tell everyone. Cameras also play
tricks, and you can also see another young lady who looks to be patting the whale on it's nose, but isn't really.
We really enjoyed our day, the photo opportunities, some more successful than others, and then a great lunch on the way back to Hervey bay as we all shared memories of the day.
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