Search for the singing whale

August 7, 1991

Story and photo
by Kim Shipton

SYDNEY — A group of expectant and fully equipped whale watchers left the wharf at Birkenhead Point at 8 a.m. on July 13 hoping to catch sight of humpback whales as they migrated north from the Antarctic to the Great Barrier Reef. The expedition was organised by the ORRCA whale rescue group, which was founded in 1985 and has been organising whale watches during the migration season ever since.

ORRCA member and marine scientist Dr Bill Fulton told the watchers that there were more than 30 species of whales in the waters migrating to the reef. "There used to be about 10,000 whales here on the coast, before the whaling days. Now there are now only 3000 left."

Whale hunting was banned in 1962. Humpback whales are famous for their songs, said Fulton. "They are the only type of their species which have a song. Their songs last for 15 to 30 minutes, using hundreds of different notes."

At about noon, the boat's motor ceased and we waited in the tossing water for an appearance from our beautiful friends. But there were to be no whales today. An hour later, the boat was touring the waters past Coogee and onwards. Eventually we turned and headed for home.

Still, as a chance to support ORRCA's activities and meet other whale lovers, the trip was well worthwhile.

It costs $45 per person to admire the whales and other marine life from the boat, including a tour of the harbour. The money is donated to scientific research and marine life welfare. Contact ORRCA on 411 2153. n

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