The Day The Whales Came
The sea around us was boiling as the large pod of whales circled our boat, rolling, breaching, diving and occasionally raising their heads to take a good look around.
Now I have seen whales before. I have seen them in Alaska and on the New South Wales south coast. It is always a thrill – and they have always been off in the distance. Often the only indicator they are there at all is a plume of spray on the far horizon or the flash of a fluke (tail) as they dived deep, slipping silently beneath the water’s deep dark surface.
Yesterday, however, I experienced whales in a new way – a very up close and personal kind of way. It filled me with gratitude and a kind of stupefied awe.
It is the end of August and these giants are making their annual migration along the east coast of Australia. Knowing I would be in Queensland I booked a tour with Brisbane Whale Watching. It was money well spent.
We set off on a beautiful morning and quickly motored towards Moreton Bay. The boat had barely slowed when the first sighting occurred. We stopped and waited. Before long a pod of humpback whales came over to take a look at us – and they stayed.
For the next few hours these giants of the sea played around our boat – sliding underneath us to come up with an unexpected whoosh on the other side and scratching themselves on our hull to knock off some of their barnacles.
At times they would move away a little, because whales are nothing if not considerate, and leap into the air, twisting their bodies as they crashed down into the water – another little trick they employ to knock off those pesky barnacles that come with a life lived beneath the waves.
To be so close to these leviathans that I felt the mist of their breath drift across my face was something I will never forget. The enormous sound when they expelled air so nearby filled my head. I could see the bite marks, scratches and barnacles on heir skin, and the whiteness of their bellies when they rolled over underneath us.
There was a moment which came when one of the humpbacks positioned itself to look up at us, that I can only describe as mystical. Once you look a whale in the eye I don’t think you can expect to ever be quite the same again. To connect on that level with something so wild and mysterious was a great privilege.
What we experienced out there was not common. The sight of the captain and crew hurrying to the railings with their cameras was a bit of a giveaway. They see whales every day, but this was something different – special. This time the whales didn’t wave as they passed by – they stayed.
“There must be very good energy on this boat today,” the captain said.
It seemed as good a reason as any to explain this remarkable behaviour.
By time we moved on, well into the afternoon, the crew estimated that around 15 individual whales had stopped by to connect with us in their own unique way. They were drawn to us – and we loved them right back.
At the railing people were blowing them kisses, calling and waving to them, their faces alight, mouths stretched wide with easy laughter. This was life being lived on full-throttle – and it was amazing.
I believe it is exchanges like this that will ultimately save these hunted creatures. I defy anyone who experienced what we did yesterday to allow the slaughter of whales to continue. And maybe the whales know this.
Maybe they understand that despite their unimaginable size and power, their ultimate survival now rests in the hands of a small, frail, land-based species – the same species, which almost wiped them off the face of the earth not so long ago.
Please do what you can to ensure their survival. Trust me – the world is a much better place for having whales in it.
Louise Eddy is a freelance writer and photographer. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org