Wind, Water and the Lost Art of Whale-Sexing!
The dry, dusty and unseasonally hot wind that had kept our fuel consumption at an all time high swept us out of the car, whistled around our ankles and bent us double until anchored by our lunch bag we landed in the shelter shed.
With any luck, being behind the windbreak would stop our sandwiches filling with sand.
Despite the thrill that came with being on one of the largest Karst landforms in the world, and traversing 90 mile Straight (Australia’s longest), so far our virgin crossing of the famous Nullarbor plain wasn’t really doing it for us.
Even the Scenic Public Toilets* were few and far between. Although there were probably more loos than trees (Null = zero, arbor = tree, geddit?) …
34ºC and winds that bent us double. No campsites out of the wind along the way. And a LOOOOONG way to go across the bite-shaped Great Australian Bight that stretches along a third or more of the southern coastline. Hell, we weren’t even half-way across Australia! We almost didn’t stop.
And now, as we lurked behind the wind break, the killer wind was blowing in the exact right direction to sweep us off the cliffs at the Head of Bight Interpretive Centre. Death-by-cliff-top didn’t really appeal, even if the Bunda Cliffs ARE the longest line of cliffs in the world …
The path led through the Interpretive Centre (where we paid our fee) then down to the viewing platforms nestled in the cliffs. Our visit to one of the largest Southern Right Whale breeding grounds and nurseries in the world had better be worthwhile after the dramas we’d faced to get there.
And on a whale viewing platform above the Great Southern Ocean** in peak creche season (May to October), that meant there’d better be whales.
As our wind-assisted passage down the path towards the boardwalks, the bluer than blue water visible over the clifftops stretched far off to an even bluer horizon, unmarred by the black submarine shapes we’d already suffered so much to see.
May as well have just flushed the AUD$12 entry fee down the toilet, I thought as I grimly pushed back against the wind still determined to see me off the cliffs and into the Bight.
Still, I could feel a photo coming on when I saw the boardwalk against the magnificent coastal scenery. I slowed down for the inevitable shot as Pilchard continued down the track.
Then I heard it!
‘It’s a boy!’ a wind-blown traveller exclaimed as she emerged onto the cliff top and drew level with Pilchard. ‘Look down there!’ Pilchard looked, then turned to me and beckoned excitedly.
‘Forget that photo! It’s much better down here!!’ he cried, as the helpful tourist pointed over the cliff edge and down to the sea. I raced towards them, camera at full stretch and ready for anything.
And there, below us in the water, wallowing RIGHT below us in the water was a whale and her calf. As we both watched (and one of us photographed wildly) the calf put on a fine display directly from the whale-watching handbook.
But one thing was puzzling me. I turned to the helpful traveller.
‘How can you tell it’s a boy?’ I asked, intrigued.
‘Well, just look at how he’s showing off!’ she replied, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. Which perhaps it was. Is.
Half an hour later, as we reluctantly returned to the hot, dry and dusty Nullarbor, our memory of the spectacular sight of at least 30 whales with calves swimming along the cliffs obscured by one little show off.
Years of corporate life failed to equip me with the skills required for whale-sexing, so I am unable to confirm if our friendly guide’s assessment of this little whale’s gender was correct.
But, until a more accurate explanation – or a more highly qualified whale-sexer – comes along to disprove it, I’ll accept her conclusion.
Somehow I think I’ll be waiting for quite some time …
Want More Information?
Southern Right Whale (Eubalaena Australis)
* Enjoy 60+ of the BEST Aussie Scenic Public Toilets from all around the country! Click HERE to find out how!!
**As it is known to us Aussies – according to the Eyre Peninsula tourist guide, the rest of the world calls it the Indian Ocean!