Sunday, 11 October 2009

But for whales

On my drive north to Brisbane, during the mid-semester break, I took the Pacific Highway and stopped off first at the endearing coastal town of Port Macquarie. This town began life in 1820 as a thriving gaol and, for about thirty years had a convict population of some 300 men. Today, Port Macquarie is a free town; some of the old buildings remain such as the Royal Hotel (below) but the street plan itself has changed.
Such was the engaging nature of this little town with its shallow harbour that I stayed here three nights. On the first morning I arose and walked over to the harbour to find a Rib just ready to set off with a small complement of tourists and go to see whales. I have never seen whales before, so I paid the money and stepped on board.

The morning was idyllic: bright sun, scarely a breeze and a very light swell. The two 200hp engines took us briskly out and, about a mile from harbour we encountered some whales - an adult and a juvenile. I imagine that they saw and heard us before we saw their 'spouts'. They rose and dived, circling the boat and, nodoubt, wondering who these beings with digital cameras and life-jackets were.

We were told that mother whales bring their young in close to shore so as to escape shark attacks. Sharks, as you know, hunt in deep water, spying their prey above and then charging upwards from the depths to take a chunk. In the more shallow waters off the beaches, they cannot do this.
We were thrilled to see the whales so close to our Rib, and how lovely it was to be out on the peaceful Pacific in the early morning sun.

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