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August 22, 2001
Hervey Bay: thar be whales! (Gail)

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Two teen humpbacks visiting the tour boats

One thing we started to do was to travel without everything planned out leaving us free to explore what we find. When we started out from Brisbane we had planned on driving about 600 km but had no idea about what we would find along the way. Due to all the traffic problems we didn't make it that far. After stopping at a TI outside of Maryborough we decided to stop in Hervey Bay and go whale watching the next day. We had no idea we were in a migration/resting area for the Humpback whales or that this was the best time to see them. Luck was with us.

We boarded the shuttle bus right outside our apartment building and traveled down to the pier, passing all the places we could have stayed with the motorhome (and were very glad we didn't have to). This is a very popular tourist area and the caravan parks were packed shoulder to shoulder.

We boarded the boat and got ourselves settled in what we thought were the best seats available. Cam got out his book and while he read the rest of us went out to experience the wind and sun of the outward bound trip. At one point we saw a lone dolphin pass in front of the bow. Joss enjoyed standing on the bow watching the waves go by. It was a beautiful sunny day and the sun sparkled on the ocean as we passed by Fraser Island the worlds' largest all sand island, (it's on the World Heritage list). It a long island reaching out from the mainland creating a safe bay where the whales rest on their way down to the feeding grounds in Antarctica.

It turned out to be the most exciting wonderful afternoon. Once we were out past the safe harbor of Fraser we started to scan the waters in earnest. Every little wavelet was cause for inspection. We knew what we were looking for; that telltale sign, a poof of spray in the air.

"Thar she blows." Well no one actually said that, it was more like "Oooo, oooo, look there's one" accompanied by much pointing. Then everyone was rushing to the rails, camera ready, hoping to capture that little puff on the far horizon. A short wait brought us much closer to the real action.

Cameron finally came out and both boys became expert spotters, enjoying every minute. We watched the whales as they examined another boatload of people that was cruising very close by. We were jealous that they weren't closer to us. Patience proved we didn't need to be.

Right after I finished my lunch I went out to the deck and within a couple of minutes the whales came right up to the side I was on. Two whales so close I could almost touch them. I quickly turned on the camera and happily snapped about six photos, sure I was going to be the hero of the family since everyone else was still eating. As soon as the whales moved away I realized that no one was going to be impressed with my major achievement because, well, yes, okay I had the lens cap on. I was crushed.

I went to confess my failure to Russell and found that he and the boys had been outside too, Russell was videotaping. The whales kept slapping their tales and flippers in turn, first one whale then the other. Whump. Whap. The sound was as amazing as the action. They kept it up for the longest time periodically rolling over, showing their white bellies, diving to show their tails. One lifted its head up out of the water to take a look at us. Cameron was standing close to that side, he was so excited.

The two whales came back up close and passed side by side between our boat and another in a space of about 50 feet. They were approached and joined by a third whale after much slapping of tales. It was the most amazing whale display. I got it on video, lens cap off and we did get a few good photos after all.

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We only had to take 150 photos to get these shots...

The captain made a point to stay as long as he could. He kept saying how amazing it was, how the whales are not usually this interactive. Reluctantly he turned us for shore. Everyone watched as the whales drifted off then disappeared.

All four of us were tired from the sun, the fresh air and the excitement. By the time we got back to shore, we were ready for dinner and bed. Joss said the first thing he wanted to do when we got back was write in his journal. The pictures he drew are so cute.


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