Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FRONT PAGE -

A SMALL group of tourists and crew had the ex­pe­ri­ence of a life­time on Sun­day, when a rare whale-shark spent half an hour play­ing with their tour boat of St Crispin’s reef.

“Awe-in­spir­ing,” is how Aris­tocat skip­per Scott “Crusty” Nel­son de­scribed it.

“I’ve been in these wa­ters for 18 years, and I’ve never seen any­thing like it.

“It’s cer­tainly the best thing I’ve done in 20 years on the wa­ter.”

The five-me­tre long shark was first spot­ted on the north­ern edge of St Crispin’s as Aris­tocat ar­rived at the first site of the day around 10:30am.

“The boys on the bow spot­ted it first, feed­ing on the cur­rent line on the edge of the reef wall” Crusty said.

Al­low­ing the boat to drift in the light breeze and mild swell, Crusty al­lowed crew, and then pas­sen­gers, to en­ter the wa­ter to in­ter­act with the cu­ri­ous crit­ter.

“We po­si­tioned the boat in front of it and a cou­ple of the crew jumped in,” Crusty said.

“The whale-shark was so cu­ri­ous about peo­ple.

“The more pas­sen­gers we had in the wa­ter, the closer it got.”

Within min­utes, the whale-shark ap­proached the boat and be­gan in­spect­ing the hu­mans in the wa­ter.

“It swam straight up to the boat,” Crusty said.

The whale-shark only stop swim­ming with the dumb­struck pas­sen­gers and tourists when the skip­per de­cided it was time to get back on sched­ule.

“When we fi­nally got to the reef, it was a bit on an anti-cli­max re­ally,” Crusty said.

If the en­counter taught the crew any­thing, it was never to have a day off.

“There were a cou­ple of crew who took the day off be­cause we didn’t have many pas­sen­gers on board,” Crusty said.

“They were scream­ing at us the next day, they couldn’t be­lieve they’d missed out.

“But it was good for the peo­ple who were out there.

“With 25 pas­sen­gers, ev­ery­one could get in the wa­ter and get up close.

“If we’d had 100, it wouldn’t have been pos­si­ble.”

Whale sharks are the biggest fish in the ocean.

Mea­sur­ing up to 18m, they are known to fre­quent Nin­ga­loo Reef near Ex­mouth on the West Aus­tralian coast each year, where they are a tourist at­trac­tion.

How­ever, they are far less fre­quent vis­i­tors to the east coast.

Fil­ter-feed­ers, they are harm­less to hu­mans.


Ma­jes­tic: the rare ocean­go­ing be­he­moth that vis­ited St Crispin’s Reef near Port Dou­glas

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