FIRST WHALES HAVE AR­RIVED

Whitsunday Times - - FRONT PAGE -

“WHALE!” was the only word Alex Cun­ning­ham could muster when he spot­ted the great ocean beau­ties cruis­ing just me­tres away.

The OzSail em­ployee was on board Spank Me, work­ing on deck in the Whit­sun­day is­lands on Mon­day af­ter­noon when he spot­ted not one, but two hump­back whales swim­ming along­side the boat.

Craig Falken­mire was be­low the deck at the time and raced up when he heard Mr Cun­ning­ham’s call.

“We thought they (the whales) were go­ing to hit the an­chor chain be­cause they were so close,” Mr Falken­mire said.

“I was very sur­prised to see them so early (in the season).”

The whales, which Mr Cun­ning­ham said were close to 17m long, headed to­wards White­haven where visi­tors on the beach got to catch a glimpse.

“It was re­ally ex­cit­ing to get to see them up close,” he said.

Their visit was only short lived, as they dis­ap­peared shortly af­ter leav­ing the boat.

But this hasn’t been the only whale sight­ing to date, with Luke Grif­fiths of Rene­gade Fish­ing Char­ters also spot­ting two whales on Fri­day.

Mr Grif­fiths said he was close to Square Reef when he saw the gen­tle gi­ants.

“I just looked over at the wa­ter and saw (one) just sit­ting there,” he said.

“I thought it might have been an up­turned boat at first, then went over and had a look to find two adult (whales).”

Mr Grif­fiths said the whales were fully grown and about the size of a large truck.

Go­ing out on the wa­ter at least 330 days of the year, he said this wasn’t the first time he’d seen a whale in the wild.

“But I wasn’t ex­pect­ing to see them this early – maybe in a few weeks,” he said.

Dur­ing the Whit­sun­day whale season of May to Septem­ber, boats and peo­ple must not ap­proach within 300m of a whale in­side the Whale Pro­tec­tion Area and 100m out­side this.

For more in­for­ma­tion visit http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/.

Photo con­trib­uted.

THEY’RE HERE: Luke Grif­fiths spot­ted the whale while he was out on the wa­ter last Fri­day.

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