Winter arrives in Warrnambool

26th June 2017

The last few weeks of mild weather have finished and winter has commenced in earnest. Today so far has been a wet and miserable and an ideal day for staying at home in front of the heater, however for those brave souls who are keen to do some whale watching, then there is still 4 whales at Logan’s beach in Warrnambool. The two mothers and their calves have been resident at Logan’s beach now for over 4 weeks and have been delighting whale watchers by keeping close to the whale watching lookout.
Sighting from Portland seem to have dried up in the last week or so with the last reported sighting on the 10th of June when a mother and calf were spotted at Cape Bridgewater, and there has been no further sighting since then.
The whale watching site at Ceduna (Australia's premier whale watching site at the Head of the Bight) has surprised everyone by submitting a report (their first since the 3rd of May) and they currently have 14 whales in the area. From now on the numbers at Ceduna will increase rapidly with most seasons reporting peak numbers in July/August around 100-150.
There has also been a number of sightings from around Victor Harbour in the last few days with a reported sighting yesterday of two Southern Right whales close to Port Elliot.
They has also been a number of Humpback whales sighted during the last week.
Photos (below) - taken during the last week at Logan's beach

From Portland and South Australia

The latest sighting from Portland was last week on the 8th of June when a mother and calf were spotted at Cape Bridgewater, and there has been no further sighting since then.
The whale watching centre at Ceduna (Australia's premier whale watching site at the Head of the Bight) has surprised everyone by submitting a report (their first since the 3rd of May) and they currently have 14 whales in the area. From now on the numbers at Ceduna will increase rapidly with most seasons reporting peak numbers in July/August of around 100-150 whales.
There has also been a number of sightings from around Victor Harbour in the last few days with the latest on Monday of two Southern Right whales close to Port Elliot.
They has also been a number of Humpback whales sighted during the last week.

How To Milk A Whale And Other Crazy Stunts

A few years ago an article appeared in the local newspaper entitled, "How to milk a whale and other crazy stunts", it was written by a local journalist who writes a weekly column under the pseudonym of Roger Sinclair. In the article Roger pointed out that for the last decade or so, the local council and tourist authority have been milking the whales for all they are worth, and although Southern Right whales have been visiting Warrnambool for as long as anyone can remember, it was only when whale watching become fashionable, that the local council saw them as a tourist cash cow.
This lead to the building of an expensive access road, car park and lookout platform at Logan's beach and having spent all this money proudly announced to all and sundry that Warrnambool was Australia's Southern Right whale capitol and the place to visit if you wanted to see whales.
This would be fine if you could guarantee to see whales whenever you visit Logan's beach, but unfortunately the whales don't arrive on cue and to quote Roger "we can have no control over when and where they appear and to pin a great deal of fiscal hope to it for the city has always been madness."
The problem has not been with the facilities at Logan's beach or with the uncertainty of whale visits ( as this is part of the mystique of whale watching) but rather with the misleading advertising that has surrounded the local whale season, and this has created expectations beyond reality and lead to a number of disappointed tourists ( and tour operators). .

On the positive side, Logan’s beach in Warrnambool is one of only two locations in Australia where mothers and calves are seen at a fixed location and where a purpose built whale lookout has been constructed, the other being at the Head of the Bight near Ceduna which is about 1000 kilometres from the nearest major town.
Warrnambool’s whale watching facilities are also the most accessible in Australia, where the facilities are within the city boundaries and where you can park your car and walk literally a dozen paces to see whales.
The one area where Warrnambool’s whale facilities could be improved is whale sighting information, and although the council have spent a $1million plus on the facilities, visitors still have no way of telling whether there any whales currently in the bay.
At times, even though there have been whale(s) in the bay at Logan's beach it is common to see visitors getting out of their cars, walking up to the lookout and staring at a seemingly empty ocean then getting back in their cars and driving away. This is primarily because many visitors don't realise that whales spend a lot of time beneath the surface and even when on the surface they are at time difficult to see.
A simple sign at the lookout which indicated whether there were any whales in the bay and a map with a magnet marker would be quite inexpensive and would quickly show if there were whales at Logan's beach and roughly the direction in which to look, and would make the visitor experience so much better

The Whale Watcher

The documentary video (above) of local identity and whale watcher, Peter Read was produced by Warrnambool film maker, Colleen Hughson and features some spectacular shots of Southern Right whales at Logan's beach in Warrnambool. This documentary was produced in 2014

Why do whales come to Warrnambool?

Warrnambool, Victor Harbour (in South Australia) and Bunda Cliffs at the Head of the Bight, (near Ceduna) seem to be the main calving grounds for Southern Right whales in Australia. No one is precisely sure why, but the best current explanation is that Southern Right Whales behaviour is similar to many herd mammals where they will isolate themselves from the herd and find a safe place to hide from predators, to give birth to their young.
In the case of Southern Right whales, they appear to seek out areas which are close to high wave energy coastlines (beaches with high swells and breaking waves), it is also thought that they seek out an environment where steep cliffs and deep waters are adjacent to where they intend to give birth.
Both the Head of Bight, Victor Harbour and Warrnambool sites are high wave energy coastlines and are adjacent to deep waters and both of these areas possess high levels of naturally occurring background sound. This background noise ( breaking waves) makes it difficult for acoustically sensitive predators such as Killer Whales to detect the presence of vulnerable Southern Right Whales mothers and calves. The close proximity to deep waters also seems to have an effect of the acoustic masking of the area and may also play a role in developing swimming skills and the stamina necessary for young whales to undertake their annual migration of up to 5000 kilometres to the Antarctic.

Pictures from 2016

The following is just a small selection some of the photos taken during 2016.