Saturday 9 October 2021

Watching whales watching us

I have just finished writing a book about what the world is like after the environmental collapse. (Spoiler: it's shit.) So after being in that apocalyptic headspace for so long, I was ecstatic to have a pod of humpback whales within touching distance today.

We were on a boat tour of the Tasman Peninsula, coming up from Port Arthur towards Eaglehawk Neck.

They showed us the local sights of interest, like this cliff - the biggest sheer rock face on the Australian coast.

I can only get so excited about rocks, to be honest. I was there for the wildlife! But marine creatures are notoriously unreliable so they have to have some other points of interest just in case.

At this point there was some radio chatter with other boats in the tour fleet and we went quick-sticks northwards, where a pod of humpback whales were feeding in a bay.

The skipper parked a polite (and legally required) distance away, so we could see them work at the bait ball, coming up to the surface with gulping mouths to swallow loads of krill.

Then they came over to check us out. Just swimming right up to the boat, rolling around in the water, and blasting us with warm greasy air that stinks of dead krill.

Did you know that whale breath is so oily that they leave a sheen of it behind when they come up to the surface? After they dive you can see a patch of calmer water about the size of a car. The sailors call it a footprint.

This was a life-affirming moment. Here's how it looked and sounded.

"You can't pay money for this," the crew-dude told us. "I mean you just have, but this is a very rare event."

If you're keen to try the tour, hop on a yellow boat with Pennicott Wilderness Journeys.

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