Australia / Wildlife

Whales on the Gold Coast – 2011

5 Dec ’11

I would not miss the whale season for anything in the world. I’ve photographed humpback whales several times over the past years including shots taken from boats or even ultralight planes (This was one of the best photographic experience I ever had). I posted a best of the humpback whales from 2008-2010 in this post (Best of Humpbacks). Every year we have a huge number of humpback whales (Megaptera novaehollandiae) passing along the East coast of Australia. They are coming from the cold feeding ground of Antarctica to give birth and mate in the warm waters of the Great Barrier Reef. The same pattern occurs all around the globe, humpbacks leaving the cold waters of Alaska to feed in Hawaii for example.

Je ne manquerais la saison des baleines pour rien au monde. Chaque année on a un nombre important de baleines a bosses (Megaptera novaehollandiae) qui passent le long des cotes Australiennes. Elles arrivent de l’Antarctique  ou elles ont mangé tout l’été et viennent mettre bas au nord du Queensland.

This year was a bit special though, I’m part of a research organisation called Humpbacks & High-Rises therefore I was out on the ocean quite often doing whale surveys with friends and other members from the association. In a nutshell we are trying to establish the first long term ecological humpback whale survey on the Gold Coast. The project has many component to it but here I’ll stick with my major part, the images. Most of the times, my role on the boat was to get us a good fluke shot. “Caudal “Flukes are unique to each whale and having pictures of them enables us to distinguish between. Once I had a good shot of a fluke I could spend my time at trying to get some more “naturalist” shots, trying to document the behaviour of those magnificent giants.

Cette année ca a été un peu spécial, je fais partie d’un ONG de recherche qui s’appelle Humpbacks & High-Rises, donc j’étais de sortie et a leur coté assez souvent pour faire de l’observations, du gps tracking, des photos de caudales, etc… En gros on tente de créer une base de données écologique sur le long terme (et la rendre publique) car cela n’existe pas sur la Gold Coast. Pour ma part quand j’etais attitré a la photo de caudale, une fois qu’on a une bonne image dans la boite je peux m’amuser a faire des photos plus sympas.

Breaching is the most acrobatic form of behaviour display in humpback whales. When they start they can go in a routine of precisely timed jumps and it then becomes easy to shoot at the right moment and it’s just a matter of chance, background, angle and light to make it a great shot.

We had morning surveys therefore there will be no images with that gloomy orange end of the afternoon light .. but when we got out early, the light shining through the whales’ blow was creating rainbows. On ne faisait nos sorties que le matin, donc pas d’image avec la douce couleur de fin de journée … Fallait faire autrement pour varier les images. J’aimais bien quand le soleil faisait un arc en ciel dans le souffle de la baleine.

We’ve had some pretty close encounter.

The Stranded Calf

There has been several beachings again this season. One happened really close to where I live and I got woken up by a call from my friend Chris telling me the news and we headed down to the beach to document the event. A really young calf (Aprox 1week) had been washed up on the beach for 6hours already and they were organising the teams and waiting for the high tide to try and release it. The main question was if they successfully got him back to the water would it reunite with his mother ? Long Story short, they managed to get him in the water, it swam away only to get entangled in a shark net… After another hour it was freed from the net and swam out. We all hoped for the best but a calf that young had very small chances of survival without it’s mother. He beached himself again north of the Gold Coast the next day and got euthanised. Plusieurs baleines se sont echouees pendant cette saison. Un de ces evenement c’est produit juste en bas de chez moi. J’ai été reveillé par un coup de fil de Chris et en 2 minutes on etait sur la plage. C’etait un tres jeune baleineau (1semaine environ) et cela faisait envion 6h qu’il était la, les secours se sont vite mis en place mais le temps que la marée monte ca a encore pris 4 ou 5heures.). Ils ont reussi a le remettre a l’eau et il a nagé directement dans un filet anti-requins … Apres une heure de travail les secouristes l’ont libérés et il a nagé vers le large mais ca ne voulait pas dire que c’était gagné car un baleineau aussi jeune ne peut pas survivre sans sa mere et apres plus de 12h de separation c’etait vraiment peu probable qu’elle soit encore dans le coin. Il s’est re-échoué le lendemain et a du etre euthanasié.

We also did a short video since the rescue operation lasted several hours.

Not only did we encounter whales during our survey but also dolphins (common & bottlenose), they were riding the bow of the boat for several minutes sometimes.

The first one is a common dolphin and the other ones are bottle nose. Chris was quite often laying at the back of the boat trying to get us some underwater footage.. and he did ! Le premier est un dauphin commun et le deuxieme un bottlenose (Tursiops sp). Chris etait souvent a l’arriere du bateau avec la go pro pour tenter de nous ramener des images et il a reussi avec brio !



We’ve reached the end of the summary for this whale season 2011 on the Gold Coast. It was such a pleasure to photograph them over and over again .. Document them, gather data and now looking at what the data says.. If you’re in a destination anywhere in the world and have the chance to go whale watching, just do it, it’s a life changing experience. Voila, c’est la fin de ce résumé de la saison 20011 des baleines sur la Gold Coast. C’etait encore une fois un plaisir et une experience unique que de photographier ces cétacés, documenter leurs vies et comportements … SI vous etes dans un endroit qui propose ce genre de choses, n’hesitez pas ca changera votre vie …

 

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Author

I am a nature photographer specialising in wildlife photography. I have a special passion for this type of photography which comes from my background as an ecologist & conservation biologist.

Comments (3)

  • December 6, 2011 by Chris Tuohy

    Chris Tuohy

    Sweet coverage mate. good job again. #3 is fav :)

  • December 11, 2011 by Unicorn

    Unicorn

    Once again, you made me dream …

  • December 30, 2011 by Patrice MESTARI

    Patrice MESTARI

    Excellent Nico,

    Tu as encore du en prendre plein les yeux ! Ce genre d’expérience ce vit mais ne se raconte pas :))

    A très bientôt :)

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