Posted by: Debra Kolkka | August 6, 2014

Thar she blows

We went whale watching today. It was a perfect winter day in Brisbane and we headed off early this morning to Redcliffe to board the purpose-built whale watching boat Eye-Spy.



Every year the magnificent southern humpback whales migrate from Antarctica to warmer waters. They feed, mate and play in the clean blue waters of Moreton Bay on their way north and the return journey south.

There was a welcoming committee sunning themselves on the rocks near the dock.


Soon we were in the capable hands of Captain Kerry Lopez and her helpful crew.


We sailed towards the northern point of Moreton Island.


In about an hour we were in position and waiting for the whales to appear.



We didn’t have to wait long for a pod of whales to approach the boat. Whale-friendly, low noise propellers minimise underwater noise, and electronically controlled engines reduce fuel usage and exhaust emissions.

The whales seemed unbothered by our presence and came very close, even swimming under the boat, perhaps to scrape the barnacles from their backs. Kerry was excellent at spotting them and directed our eyes towards approaching whales and other pods in the distance.











We were close enough to see the markings and barnacles on their skin. They were happily frolicking in the water around the boat. They didn’t jump into the air and breach, but we didn’t mind, they are magnificent up close and seemed to be as curious about us as we were about them.

We also saw dolphins and turtles enjoying the bay, but they were a bit more difficult to photograph.

After a delicious lunch it was back to dry land.


On the way back to the car we came upon a flock of cockatoos playing and feeding in a Norfolk pine, rounding off a very good day.

I have been whale watching before. I have a photograph somewhere of my father holding 1 year old me in his arms in front of a slaughtered whale at the Tangalooma whaling station on Moreton Island. Whaling was carried on there from 1952 until 1962.

There was a yearly quota of 600 whales, which was easily reached in the early years. One whale could yield more than 8,000 kilograms of oil, which was used to make margarine, glycerine, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. In August 1962, only 68 whales had been caught and the whaling station was closed. In the 10 years of operation, 6,277 humpback whales and one blue whale were killed and processed.

The operation seriously decimated the east coast population of humback whales to less than 500 individuals from the original population, which was estimated at 15,000. In 1965 humpback whales were placed on the Protected Species list.

It is estimated that $32 million was earned each year from whaling in Australian waters. Currently whale watching earns about $70 million per annum.

It is clearly much better to watch them than kill them.




  1. A wonderful story and it reminded me of how excited I was to go last year to see the whales. Who knew that I would get horribly seasick and miss the whole thing?! Your photos show more than I was able to see so thank you.

    • A few people were seasick. I think we were lucky to see so many whales.

  2. I’m so glad you had a great time – your photos are fantastic! Our one and only experience was terrible – no whales showed up, and everyone on the boat basically chummed the water.. 😉

    • The whales appeared as soon as the boat slowed down in the channel. Kerry could see them ages before we could and had us scaning the water in the right direction. They are amazing creatures and it was great to be so close to them.

  3. Great day out. I enjoyed it last year. Brings back nice memories

    • It is a great day out. Moreton Bay is gorgeous, and so close to the city.

  4. I’m so happy that the whales are now protected. What a great morning you had, and your pics of these massive creatures are very good, Debra. Seeing the lovely cockatoos must have been the cherry on the top. 🙂

    • It is good to know that the whales have made a successful comeback. They must have made easy targets for the whalers, they seem to be so trusting. The cockatoos are always fun to watch, they are such cheeky little birds.

  5. Such pristine colours in the photos; it must be such a thrill to see the whales at close hand. I know they are big creatures but I suspect that in real life they are quite awesome. Cockatoos are such characters aren’t they. Years ago I went into our back garden early on a slightly foggy morning and in a pine tree there were around 20 cockatoos – it looked for all the world like a Christmas tree.

    • It was a great day and it is good to know that we have so many creatures thriving so close to the city.

  6. What a gorgeous day! They are such beautiful animals.

    • The whales are amazing and it was great to get so close to them.

  7. What a lovely welcoming committee!

    • We were surrounded by gorgeous critters all day.

  8. Wow, you are so lucky! It looks like an unforgetable experience.

    • The whales are amazing. They really do seem to be curious about us too.

  9. What a fun & educational day it was – great photos Deb & it was not easy to do –

    • Photographing a moving target from a moving boat with the sun shining in your eyes is not all that easy, but I got a few reasonable shots.

  10. What a marvellous day for you with the bird life, marine life and the whales frolicking close by. Moreton Bay is an amazing place for adventures like those. Love your story and your photos, too.

    • We are lucky to have such a gorgeous place near the city, and the islands are largely untouched.

  11. Whales are absolutely amazing animals. I cannot believe whaling is still allowed. It is so cruel. Gorgeous photos.

    • I meant that whaling is still allowed in Japan and Iceland. It is really horrific.

      • There must be a way to stop these countries killing whales, it just doesn’t seem right.

  12. I agree it’s so much better that the whales are watched than killed. What a wonderful experience to see these magnificent creatures up close in their natural habitat.

    • They move so gracefully through the water. It is amazing to think how far they swim on their migration.

  13. Great story. How exciting to see theses magnificent creatures up close and personal. and yes better for everyone to enjoy their freedom- can’t bear to think of how it was back in the fifties with whaling.

    • Fortunately whaling was stopped before the east coast whales were wiped out.

  14. I’ve never been whale watching and always wanted to. Thank you for this. Such beautiful creatures.

  15. Wow that’s incredibly close! Whenever we’ve gone whale watching it’s at a real distance. It’s usually a speck far away!

  16. Aren’t they amazing!

  17. Great pics of the whales

  18. What a fabulous day!

  19. Great pics.Can I ask what camera you used?I´ve done this trip.It ´s amazing,lifetime experience

    • It a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200. I have only had it for a couple of weeks, and I like it.

  20. Really enjoyable read Thank You

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