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Sunday, April 24, 2011

I was sinking my teeth into a chocolate Bilby on Easter Sunday when my thoughts went to the whales that would soon be gracing the waters of Platypus Bay off Hervey Bay very soon. They don’t have teeth to sink into anything.

The Humpback whale is a toothless whale. They are called baleen whales or mysticeti whales. They have baleen plates instead of teeth so are what we call filter feeders. Baleen, also known as "whalebone" is not really bone, but is made of keratin, the same protein substance as our own hair and nails, and the horns of cattle. The word baleen is derived from the Latin word for whale ‘baleena’.

Humpback whales are mammals just like you and me, and exhibit a number of traits common to all mammals. They are warm blooded, they breathe air and they bear live young and nurse them with milk. Unlike me though they are seasonal feeders. They eat twice a day for about 120 days. That equates roughly to 240,00kg of food.

In order to feed, a humpback whale opens its mouth and scoops food (such as krill, plankton and small fish), together with large volumes of water. It then partly shuts its mouth and presses its tongue against its upper jaw, forcing the water to pass out sideways through the baleen. This sieves out the food that it then swallows.

Can you imagine the mess if that was how I ate my Easter egg each season. Imagine what I would look like if I ate that many kilos of chocolate Bilby. I’ll stick to being a grazer while I wait for these majestic giants to return to the calm waters off Hervey Bay. Why are the waters calm? We are sheltered from the predominating south easters by Fraser Island.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Platypus Bay

The work that goes into making a whale season in Hervey Bay a successful season now begins in earnest. Website updates, brochure updates, putting advertising in place (and isn't that a hard one – deciding where you advertising dollar is best spent), attend trade shows, visit the local agents. The list is never ending – all for the love of this.

The season in Hervey Bay runs from mid July until the end of October. The reason for what may be considered a short season is because the whales only stop and play, for a day or even a week, in the Bay on their southern migration. Other centres around the country run longer seasons as they are in open ocean and get the whales on the move on both the northern and southern migration.

Hervey Bay is sheltered by World Heritage Fraser Island (the world's largest sand island) so as the humpback whales leave the Antarctic and head for the warm waters of the Whitsundays they swim up the coast,which for Hervey Bay means the eastern side of Fraser Island and it is not until they are heading south that a percentage of the migration funnel into the calm waters of what on the marine chart is known as Platypus Bay.

Now you know I love to talk about 'what is in a name?' Well, I find the name Platypus Bay rather amusing so I, of course, Googled! I had the interesting and unique to Australia Platypus swimming happily around the western shores off Fraser Island having a wonderful time on holiday. Everyone loves a holiday in Hervey Bay. So how did the Bay get its name? I have no idea. I could not find anything about the name but I did find out how Hervey Bay got its name. James Cook named Hervey Bay after Augustus John Hervey (1724-1779). Hervey was the Third Earl of Bristol and Lord of the Admiralty.

So while I am none the wiser how Platypus Bay got its name I will carry on researching and go on with the task at hand – getting ready for the 2011 whale watch season in Hervey Bay.