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Friday, August 15, 2014
The most unusual sighting..

We had an amazing cruise with quite a few special moments today! When we first came out of Moreton Bay, passing Comboyuro Point (the northwestern corner of Moreton Island), we were greeted by two very curious humpback whales that came over and sat within touching distance off the back of our boat for a few minutes to check us out. Moving on towards Cape Moreton we were joined by a beautiful Common Dolphin that came racing in to have a quick ride on our bow wave! He was moving so fast, leaping high out of the water as he was coming towards us, it was a stunning sight! We don’t see common dolphins very often as they tend to live in deeper waters further offshore, but this small pod has been hanging around quite close to the coast, just off North Point, for a few days now. As we approached Cape Moreton we were suddenly surrounded by pods of humpback whales in all directions! There were so many whales around and they were all very active, with breaches, tail slaps, flipper slaps, headlunges and generally splashing around everywhere! We didn’t know where to look!

But the most unusual sighting was still to come as we turned back towards Moreton Bay for the cruise home. Just off Yellow Patch we found another four humpback whales that were slowly moving towards a huge school of baitfish. The fish were so dense we could clearly see them as a big dark patch in the water. There were also lots of sea birds circling over them and diving in to pick up fish from the surface. This was quite an interesting situation because humpback whales don’t normally eat up here. They do all their feeding during the summer months in Antarctica, where there is lots of krill and baitfish for them to eat. Down there in the southern oceans they will eat over a tonne of krill every single day and build up a huge fat reserve, the blubber layer, under their skin. They then live off that fatty tissue for the rest of the year while they are migrating or up on the breeding grounds. There have been only very few rare sightings of humpbacks opportunistically snacking on large schools of bait fish if they happen to come across them while on migration. But they usually don’t eat anything at all during their migratory journey. So we were quite intrigued to see what these four whales were going to do.

Two of the whales moved towards the left side of the bait school while the other two moved over to the right and they seemed to be herding the fish between them towards the beach! Suddenly one of the whales lunged straight through the middle of the school, just below the surface! He brought his head up above the water on the other side so we could clearly see his expanded throat from that huge mouthful of fish he had just gulped up – he was definitely feeding!! Another soon followed, turning on his side as he skimmed through the bait. Meanwhile the other two appeared to be gulping up fish on the outside of the school. What incredible behaviour for us to witness, even all of our crew were super excited as none of us had ever seen whales feeding in this area here before! Truly a very special and unusual encounter for a boatful of lucky people!

Posted by Ben
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