A southern right whale and her calf play at Manly Beach, just metres from surfers and swimmers. Thankfully nobody was hurt by the immense tail whip! Research scientist Dr John Martin told ABC Radio the closeness to shore was an "absolute rarity".
4 August 20
A whale calf, closely followed by its mother, came within metres of surfers and swimmers at Manly beach, in Sydney’s north, on Sunday afternoon.
The pair were initially identified as humpbacks by onlookers, but marine wildlife experts later said they were southern rights, which also migrate north to calve, then return to colder waters for the southern summer.
One boardrider, Josh, told Guardian Australia he had never seen a whale, particularly a calf, come so close to the beach at Manly.
“There was a bit of pointing going on and I looked round and the little one was just there,” Josh said. “Then mum came in pretty quick smart, I think when she realised how close people were.
“You often see whales further out the back but this one just came right up to where people were hanging on their boards.”
Images show dozens of surfers watching from about 10m from the whales. Initially there was some concern that one of the whales had been caught in a shark net but that was not the case.
“I think everyone was just paddling up to get a good look. It’s the sort of thing you won’t forget seeing.”
Last week researchers from the University of NSW found that while whale-watching season in Australia is often a tourism drawcard, many were not in optimum health during the return leg of the migration.
The researchers collected and analysed samples of whale blow – similar to mucus from a human nose – from humpbacks and found “significantly less” microbial diversity and richness on journey south.
Their paper, published in the journal Scientific Reports, said this indicated the whales were likely in poorer health than when their journey began.
“Whales do not only play an essential role in their marine ecosystem but also represent an important economic resource because whale-watching is a booming industry in many Australian cities and around the world.”