A Whale Tale
22 Oct 2018
The Humpback whale may not be the largest whale species on the planet, but they certainly take up their fair share of the ocean, with adults growing up to 18 metres long. Their tails alone can measure around 5.5 metres wide. It’s hard to fathom just how impressive those creatures can be until you get up close to one.
I didn’t need much convincing to get up close and personal with one of these deep sea giants, when the Spirit of Gold Coast Whale Watching team offered a discount to local students. I’d never seen a whale before, so I took the opportunity to join some like-minded students by taking up that offer.
It was a serene and slightly overcast Gold Coast morning, cooled by a gentle wind. Perfect to go whale watching – the boat wouldn`t rock too much, with enough light allowing us to spot just a trace of these magnificent creatures. You could feel the excitement as people lined up in anticipation to board the boat. They, like me, were thrilled with the prospect of seeing firsthand, and in most cases the first time, these majestic and innocent marine mammals in all their glory.
The boat set sail from Mariners Cove in Main Beach, passing by Doug Jennings Park where families picnicked to soak up this magic beach day, before finally gliding through the canal between The Spit and South Stradbroke Island to gain the open sea. Safety instructions were given as our journey built momentum and the kids on board squeaked with joy, already imagining the very moment when “whales start jumping and splash water all over us.”
Surrounded by calm waters it was a smooth and beautiful ride to our destination. It wasn’t long before the captain announced that the first pod of whales had been sighted: “about five hundred meters, at one o`clock”. Now, I might not be much of a sailor, but this very nautical sense of clocklike orientation is crucial to ensure that you don’t miss any action. Although whales are not particularly fast swimmers, they will constantly disappear from sight and suddenly re-emerge elsewhere. So it not only requires you to understand the difference between ‘nine o`clock’ and ‘three o`clock’, but it’s paramount that you pay attention to ensure that you don’t miss out on witnessing the show.
While it was our captain who guided the vessel straight into where the Humpback pods were breaching and splashing, he and his crew weren’t the only ones doing the spotting. Children are extra vigilant when it comes to such an adventure filled with excitement. Clinging to the front deck`s railing, eyes wide open, ears attuned to the slightest splash, they were often the first ones to spot a whale. With voices raised and fingers pointing the way, their cries of: “there, there, there!” had everyone looking on. And spot on they were, without fail.
Suddenly a whale breaches right next to the boat. It turns out to be a calf – a mere baby the size of four cylinder hatchback, having a blast, literally. High and energetic, suspended in the air for a few seconds, it captivates us all in its wondrous beauty. For a moment we all seem to be speechless as the whale holds us in its thrall, before a collective gasp of emotion unites us all: “Ooooohhhhhh!”
And it`s hard to tell who`s happier, us or the whales.
*Frankie Barcellos is a Brazilian student currently studying for his Masters in Communications at Bond University.