BLOG WITH SIMON: Finding Nigel

Witnessing a whale up close was a real rush, mainly to the side of the boat.

I went whale watching the other day, or whale chasing as it turned out. Those things sure can motor.

Mostly underwater as we discovered.

But I’m not complaining. It was a brilliant experience.

And besides, we were told as we set off from Nelson Bay that it can be haphazard.

Seven hundred whales might have passed by Fingal lighthouse since May, and another 700 might be expected in the next two months, but they don’t necessarily bank up off Tomaree Headland each day for the 10am and 2pm shows.

They’re way too spiritual for that.

Instead, they migrate north when they want, with whoever they want, to do whatever they want.

Mainly have sex, as I understand.

Like I said, very spiritual.

For that reason you get a whale-back guarantee – if you miss out one day, you can come back another.

A ‘‘humpback’’ guarantee in fact, as they are the main species on the move, apart from seals, dolphins and on our particular day, the odd breakfast – a variation on that old whaling cry ‘‘thar she blows’’.

(They warned us about orange juice at breakfast.)

We didn’t need the guarantee because as soon as we got out past the islands off Port Stephens – barely further than what you can project a standard breakfast – we hooked up with a whale.

I had been hoping for a pod of show whales auditioning for Sea World.

Instead we got Nigel No Friends.

Still, witnessing a whale up close was a real rush, mainly to the side of the boat where Nigel first appeared.

Then another rush back to the other side of the boat when he reappeared, which as mentioned was haphazard.

I could only imagine how much more of a rush whale watching would have been back in the old days, in a row boat, with a harpoon.

Not that I had any interest whatsoever in harpooning Nigel, but we might have seen more of him.

The first and lasting impression, apart from the fact that Nigel can hold his breath for long periods of time, is that whales are huge.

The fact Nigel surfaced every so often indicated he was comfortable in our presence, and that gave me a warm fuzzy feeling I don’t think was related to orange juice.

The resultant lulls between sightings produced suspense on deck reminiscent of a U-boat drama.

A deathly silence descended as people scanned the ocean for evidence white caps weren’t whales.

Given how many white caps blew up later that morning, you’d have thought the ocean was alive with whales.

Unfortunately it wasn’t. Just Nigel. Singular.

Judging by a spectacular photo that appeared in the Herald the next day of a whale breeching, the ocean was more alive that afternoon. Damn.

Still, we got to see plenty of Nigel’s blowhole, and on two occasions he flapped his tail, which was not unlike getting the biggest set of forks ever.

Again, very spiritual.

As I pondered the notion of thousands of whales making their way north annually along this whale way for what sounds like, to all intents and purposes, an orgy, I was reminded of my migrations up the north coast as a young buck, on the old motorail.

I reckon the whales probably make it to the border quicker than the motorail ever did. I also reckon it’s probably more comfortable swimming than taking economy class on ‘‘the zoo’’ ever was. And I know for sure whales probably get more action.

Still, as a mammal, I could relate to the urges and celebrate the fact we get the chance to chase these magnificent creatures at all, orange juice or otherwise.

Have you ever been whale watching?

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