Whale Season Off To An Early Start
24th May 2017
The first whale sighting for 2017 was on Monday ( 22nd May) and usually the first Southern Right whale sighting is just a passing whale and the sighting will only last a few hours, however the whale sighted on Monday was seen again for about 5 hours yesterday and is still in the bay and today ( Wednesday 24th). There has also been reports today of a second whale at Logan's beach. One whale was immediately in front of the whale lookout at lunchtime today and quite close to shore. So far no one has identified the whale's gender but most probably will be a female.
Great Whale Watching Weather
It has been ideal whale watching weather for the past few days and although the weather bureau had forecast widespread rain over the Southwest from Monday onwards, for some reason Warrnambool has missed most of it. Despite the fine weather there has been relatively few visitors in the past three day with only about a dozen visitors at the lookout this afternoon, possibly Warrnambool residents are becoming a little wary about going out to Logan’s beach early in the season, as in most years the first sighting is followed by a long period of staring at a blank ocean
Todays photo - Logans beach and the whale lookout car park at the lower left of the photo
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.