Sunday, 25 October 2020

Uluru

From the air, Uluru looks just like a rock. It really is an island in an ocean of spinifex.

Witnessing an Uluru sunrise.
The sun's rising from the northern corner of the rock.

Near sunset when the rock is bathed in the last sun rays of the day.

Uluru is part of the greater Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

These photos were taken in September 2019, just before Uluru was finally closed to tourists and climbers. I had the chance to get up close and personal with Uluru.

The minga line crawling up and down Uluru.
Climbers were aided by chains secured on posts drilled and secured to the rock.


These scenes of people and posts & chains are no longer seen on Uluru.






 The trail was painted in some sections.

A photographer was the first soul up there on the day I climbed.
I was taking a photo of the sun and he photo-bombed.



Then the invaders arrived.
  
 I tried to keep far from the chattering crowd.

 Kata Tjuta from Uluru.







The place was crawling with minga, but I had to visit the marker. It looked good and stable.
I gave it my stamp of approval. Surveyors in future will have to come in on an aircraft.
Or they might just send in a drone.


'Now what have we got here?' I asked my shadow. 'Drones?' 'No, birds of prey.'
'Where? O yeah, up in the sky.' 'No, not those, the ones on Uluru.'
'See them? On the edge of the rock, right of centre.'
'Let me zoom in.'
 A pair of peregrinators. They were a bit distant and I only had a point-and-shoot, but it was such a rare privilege to catch sight of Peregrine Falcons on Uluru.


 I lingered for a bit on that un-deserted desert island.
I felt right at home, but I had to go home.


 So I joined the minga line...
 down the white paint line
 to the car line







And tourists shall not set foot on Uluru again...


 At sunset I bid adieu to Uluru.

And by the next sunrise, I waved bye-bye.

Saturday, 12 September 2020

Whale Watching in Hervey Bay

Five years ago.
Each year with the changing of the seasons, humpback whales migrate along the eastern coastline of Australia between the southern Tropics and the Antarctic. The majority of humpbacks in Australian waters migrate north from June to August, and back towards the Southern Ocean from September to November. After spending the southern summer feeding in the colder waters near the south pole, they travel up to 5000 kilometres north to warmer seas where they reproduce. Humpbacks range all the way to Cape Tribulation in the Great Barrier Reef. During their migration Humpbacks sometimes come close to shores. Hervey bay is a favourite playground of these magnificent animals.
The calm waters of Hervey Bay sheltered by Fraser Island, is an ideal stopover for Humpbacks.
One weekend found me with nothing to do so I thought to get on the trail of some whales. On a cold breezy and overcast day in October, I booked a spot on a boat for a bit of whale watching.
Whale watching is an enjoyable and interesting experience and is popular in many locations around the world. Hervey Bay is the whale watching capital of Australia.
The first sign of a whale is the blow, a bushy double stream of spray that rises about 3m high. This blow is an exhalation of water by the Humpback as it breathes through two blowholes near the top of the head. 
Humpback whales sometimes travel in temporary groups called pods. Pods are loose traveling groups and some of the whales leave the group after a few days. Many whales live separate from groups but pods stay together for a longer time during the summer, co-operating to forage and feed. The core of a pod is the mother-and-calf/calves bound by the strong and lasting bond. Pregnant cows and cow-calf pairs bring up the rear of a migrating pod led by a group of young males.
At one time, our boat was in the middle of about a half-dozen pods. Humpbacks do not seem to mind the approach and presence of boats.
Humpbacks are very acrobatic, often breaching high out of the water and then slapping the water as they come back down.
Sometimes a whale pokes its head out of the water for up to 30 seconds to take a look around. This is called spyhopping.


Humpbacks range in color from white to gray to black to mottled.



The stubby dorsal fins are visible when the whale surfaces.



Humpback whales are very agile, propelling themselves with their tail fins to make high jumps out of the water.
Lobtailing. When humpbacks slap their tail on the water's surface making a very loud sound.


There are distinctive patches of white on the underside of the flukes. Like the identifiable patterns on their pectoral, these markings are unique to each individual whale.




Whilst fish swim by moving their tails left and right, whales swim by moving their muscular tail or flukes (up to nearly 4m wide) up and down.

The humpback's skin is frequently scarred and often covered with barnacles.
The smooth streamlined shape of an adult whale allows it easy movement through water.
Humpback whales live at the surface of the ocean, both in the open ocean and shallow coastline waters. They prefer shallow waters when not migrating. 
Logging is when a whale is resting at the surface of the water, with its tail down.
The Humpback Whale is the fifth largest of the aquatic mammals.  Humpbacks grow up to 16m long, around 40 tonnes in weight, and live up to 50 years or more. Humpback whales are an endangered species. 
Australia has one of the highest rates of species extinction in the world. In 1963 when the Australian east coast whaling industry ended, the east coast population of humpbacks had been reduced to a little over 100 individuals. This population recovered steadily and in 2006 their numbers were estimated at around 8000.
There are reports that humpback whale populations in Australian waters have recovered to the extent that they may be down-listed from the official list of threatened species. The recovery of the humpback population has contributed significantly to the rapid growth of Australia’s whale watching industry.