Frequent humpback watch workout makes for a healthy splash
FRASER Coast resident Pam Swain maintains there are hidden health benefits to frequent whale watching in Hervey Bay.
And she should know.
The veteran humpback watcher has been on the whale watch boats so many times in the past 30 years, she says she lost count after the 150th cruise.
“Whales are really attracted to movement so you put your right hand up, you put your left hand up, you charge around the boat and you do it all over again until the whales come for a look and so they stay once they arrive,” she said.
“Some people call the encounter a mugging, but I call it a whale watch workout.”
Pam and her husband Paul travelled from Derbyshire, in the UK, to Hervey Bay in 1988 at the start of the humpback whale watching revolution in Hervey Bay and emigrated in 1991.
“The very first time I went, they used a spotter aircraft to go out and locate the whales and they’d drop toilet rolls back then so the vessels would know where to go.
“It was a source of great excitement for those of us on board,” she said.
“Up close, the eye is beautiful – it’s tiny and in proportion, but it’s lovely when they roll it slightly so they can eye you up.
“I love their beautiful tails – all spotted and barnacled. I love the folds in their belly and, when they pec slap, you can see the nodules on the surface – it’s almost like they are waving at you, you know.”
Pam was smitten from the first but husband Paul was instantly banned after a couple of outings.
“Twice he came out with us, but he was banned because he’s bad luck,” Pam says of her preference for solo cruising.
“I tend to keep to myself on the boat, but the crew normally points me out. A few days ago, some visitors called me the Whale Whisperer – I don’t mind, it’s as good a nickname as any.”
As seems to be the way in Hervey Bay, guests not only form emotional attachments with the whales – Pam’s had the privilege of naming a calf, Goodwill, after the 2001 Goodwill Games that were on at the time – but also with the boat crew, and often come back to chase the ultimate humpback high.
Being a daredevil at heart, Pam says she quickly graduated from the bigger boats towards Peter Lynch, skipper of one of the smallest boats in the fleet, the Blue Dolphin.
“I went out on a research boat for a week and that was incredibly wonderful as you have the ocean to yourself after all the other vessels have gone,” Pam said.
For more information, go to visitfrasercoast.com/whales.
SLAP DOWN: Humpback whales at play.