As we speed towards the cooler months, we Victorians might think it’s time to say goodbye to outdoor activities for a while. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Cold weather is all relative – and winter is the time of year when whales come up from Antarctica to breed and take advantage of our comparatively “warmer” waters in Bass Strait. So, now is the perfect time for whale-watching!
Last year I went on a boat trip around the islands of Wilsons Promontory, and my eyes were opened to the magical and majestic underwater world that lives just on our doorstep this time of year. I thought I’d share with you a few snapshots from the day.
First, we saw the Australasian Gannets (Morus serrator), plunging straight into the waves to catch fish. They were so quick, often you would just catch a splash out of the corner of your eye.
Then came the pod of dolphins keeping pace with the boat and jumping above the waves. These Short-beaked Common Dolphins (Delphinus delphis) live in large pods (I couldn’t count how many we saw!), and can be found in offshore waters around Australia.
We then passed some Australian Fur Seals (Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus) lounging on the rocks in the intermittent sun and frolicking in the waves. Apparently when they “wave” their flipper in the air, it’s not to say hello - they are actually using the air to evaporate water and cool down their body temperature.
But we were always on the lookout for those elusive creatures that had drawn us all there – the Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae). And finally, just peaking above the water, the back of a male humpback in the distance. Much still remains a mystery about these amazing creatures – they are arguably the hardest and most expensive vertebrate to work on because of their lifestyle, mobility and remote habitat. But catching a glimpse of one was truly a rare and exciting gift.
Ella is a PhD Candidate at the University of Melbourne, where she spends a lot of time thinking about why some quolls don’t eat cane toads (if only she could ask them!). She also enjoys talking and writing about science, and would ultimately love to have an actual impact on the conservation of Australia’s biodiversity.
You can find her on Twitter at @ecology_ella
Banner image courtesy of Ella Kelly.