Whale tale about three men in a tub

THREE men in a tinnie had a close encounter of the spectacular kind while fishing on Saturday.

The Central Coast men found themselves in the migration path of three fast-moving humpback whales off North Shelley beach, and didn’t know whether to be thrilled or terrified.

‘‘We hadn’t seen a whale all day,’’ said one of the men, who asked not to be identified.

‘‘We’d been a long way out in a little tinnie and we decided to go in closer to shallower water.’’

While heading north in water off Crackneck Lookout at Bateau Bay, the men saw a whale ‘‘blow’’ further up the coast.

‘‘We headed towards it, but it was a bit of a distance away.’’

While the man was standing in the tinnie to film the whale a fast-moving humpback surfaced about 50 metres away.

‘‘We thought there was only one whale,’’ he said.

‘‘It was only when my mate yelled out that we realised there were more around.

‘‘It was pretty amazing, but we were only in a tinnie. Standing up even to film was sketchy.’’

It became even sketchier when a second and third humpback whale surfaced much closer.

‘‘They were moving really quickly. They were so close and that’s what made it crazy. We were in a tinnie that was lower in the water than the whale.’’

Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia (ORCA) spokesman Ron Ling said humpback whales were known to approach vessels, but because they were wild animals their behaviour was unpredictable. About 17,000 whales are heading north for their annual migration.

‘‘They can approach you, which is completely within the law,’’ Mr Ling said. ‘‘They’re amazing creatures and they’re certainly aware of vessels.

‘‘I’ve seen them move their flippers within an inch of a boat.’’

ORCA has recorded about 30 whale sightings a day off the coast in the past week, including a large pod of 20 killer whales.

The man who took the film that appears on the Newcastle Herald website summed up his close encounter: ‘‘We were in the right place at the right time, but we just weren’t in the right boat.’’

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