It has been a challenging year (not only) for our tiny business with so much uncertainty. Tasmania had its borders shut to most of the world for 17 months now. Currently, Tasmania is also refusing entry to Australians travelling from New South Wales, ACT, areas of the Northern Territory and Victoria. Like most businesses in the tourism sector, we have been dealing with lots of cancellations, refunds, re-bookings and more rounds of cancellations.
But our persistence has paid off and we are super humbled to have been rewarded with the Tripadvisor 2021 Travellers Choice Award. We realise it is only because of all you lovely people who have booked a tour with us and helped us stay afloat! (No pun intended)
Together we have made a difference
Not only is this a big achievement for us, but also a great win for our wildlife. You have helped us again to pull off some more marine and wildlife conservation projects this season, like the Tasmanian Whale Fluke Project, the collection of whale faeces for researchers from IMAS and UTAS, Orca research in collaboration with Killer Whales Australia and of course our wildlife orphanage.
Heading into the new season like…
We are now getting ready to start our new season, with the first tours scheduled for the 18th September. Here is hope that Australia is going to get on top of the latest COVID outbreaks. A strong reminder how lucky we’ve been here in Tasmania. So don’t take it for granted, get out and enjoy our wild places!
If you are one of the lucky ones who have received a Tasmanian travel voucher, you can use your voucher for both our tours and claim $100 off the total cost! 🙂
Last spring and early summer, we were lucky to see a huge number of Humpback Whales passing through Tassie waters as they headed south to Antarctica. It has been the best season for us by far! During this time, we were really successful in collecting identification images of Humpback Whale flukes (the underside of the tail that is unique to each whale) as part of the Tasmanian Fluke Project, wich we set up in collaboration with Dr. Maddie Brasier from the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS).
Since Easter we have been looking out for Humpback Whales once again, excited to see if we could re-sight any of these whales (or new ones) as they migrate north for winter. Dr. Maddie Brasier has put together a few interesting findings that we’ve made during this years winter whale season:
3-month-long resident Humpback Whale
A sub-adult Humpback Whale was spotted off the Tasmanian Peninsula regularly – by ourselves and other boat operators – between the 5th of April and 1st July. This is super exciting for us, as it’s been over 87 days of re-sights and it shows that the east coast of Tasmania is an area of significance for Humpback Whales. We nick-named this whale ‘Smiley’ because of a smiley face mark on its fluke. Smiley was spotted feeding on krill and bait fish throughout this time and can be found on the ‘Happywhale’ database under the whale ID number HW-MN1110190.
How the coloration of the flukes can change
We re-sighted a whale that we observed off Tasmania last November and noticed distinct changes in the colouration on its fluke. The spots on its flukes darkened from grey to black. This can happen as the whale matures. We were still able to match the whale, due to the shape of the trailing edge of the fluke and a distinctive target-like mark on its left hand side. You can see this, if you zoom in on the photo above.
We nick-named this whale ‘Speckles’. On several occasions, Speckles was observed feeding together with other whales including Smiley. Speckles can be found on the ‘Happywhale’ database under the whale ID number HW-MN1110103.
The importance of collaboration between citizen scientists and marine researchers
Whilst we have been uploading our fluke images to Happywhale, other organisations have been doing it too. The Pacific Whale Foundation for example have been collecting fluke images from the Hervey Bay region in Queensland since the 1980s. We have had several updates to tell us that their images have matched with our Tassie whales including:
A whale with the ID number HW-MN1110017 who was first sighted off New South Wales in 1994 then in Tasmania in 2020.
HW-MN1100317 first sighted off Queensland in 1986, then in New South Wales in 2007, in Queensland in 2009 and then in Tasmania in 2018.
HW-MN1110005 first sighted off Queensland in 1990 and re-sighted in 1991, 1993 and 1997. It has also been sighted off New South Wales in 2004 and 2007. It was first sighted off Tasmania in 2018.
HW-MN1110161 first sighted off Queensland in 1988, then in New South Wales in 1997 and 2007 and in Tasmania in 2007 by the Marine Conservation Program.
These updates are great to make you feel part of the journey of these whales. It’s amazing to think that some of these individuals have been swimming past our shores twice a year for over 30 years!
Thanks to our contributors!
This winter, we have collected fluke images for twelve “new” whales. We’d like to thank Lily Barnett, Els Wakefield, Angela Siejka and Tim Cunningham for their contribution of whale fluke photos to our project. This highlights how important ‘citizen science’ can be to support modern marine research!
If you have any fluke images you would like to contribute, please email them to Dr. Maddie Brasier at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, you can create an account at www.happywhale.com and upload them yourself. They will then be forwarded to Maddie for matching.
We are running our tours until the 15th July. Then, we will have a short winter break until mid September. Our new season starts on the 18th September and our online booking system shows the live availability. If you are planning to visit Tasmania, we would love to take you on our 2+hour Scenic Tour or join us on our Half-Day Seal & Ocean Expedition and jump in the water to snorkel with the seals! We look forward to sharing it with you! 🙂
New paper published about the formation of ‘super-groups’ of Humpback Whales and bubble-net feeding in East Australian waters
The last Humpback Whale migration south, between September and November 2020, has really been something special. Not only in Tasmania, but all along the south-east coast of Australia.
We’re excited that we had the opportunity to contribute photographic evidence of the formation of ‘super-groups’ of Humpback Whales as well as ‘bubble-net feeding’ behaviour to a scientific paper that got published two days ago. The paper by Vanessa Pirotta, Kylie Owen, David Donnelly, Madeleine J. Brasier, Robert Harcourt is titled: First evidence of bubble-net feeding and the formation of ‘super-groups’ by the east Australian population of Humpback Whales during their southward migration. If you are interested, you can access the full paper here. It’s definitely worth a read! 🙂
First recorded evidence of bubble-net feeding by Humpback Whales off Tasmania and East Australia
Dr. Maddie Brasier, who is one of the co-authors of the paper and also our ‘in-house’ marine biologist has put together why this publication is another important step towards ensuring the conservation of Humpback Whales in Tasmanian and east Australian waters, so read on:
Pirotta’s paper includes three accounts of bubble-net feeding within Tasmanian waters, all three of which were recorded by Wild Ocean Tasmania.
What is bubble-net feeding?
Bubble-net feeding is when Humpback Whales expel air underwater to create a ring of bubbles around their prey. They then lunge towards the surface inside that ring of bubbles, engulfing a massive mouthful of food. Bubble-net-feeding can be performed by single individuals or multiple animals lunging into the same bubble-net. All observations of bubble-net feeding by Wild Ocean Tasmania in the 2020 summer season involved single individuals.
To create the bubble-nets, Humpback Whales turn tightly whilst expelling air. Humpbacks can do this, because their huge flippers are edged with tubercules. These fist-sized bumps contain one hair follicle that is connected to a series of sensitive nerves. The tubercules increase lift and decrease drag as they swim through the water. These physical features make them incredibly hydrodynamic and more agile than other whale species.
Prior to the observations recorded in Pirotta et al. bubble-net feeding in the Southern Hemisphere had only been formally documented in Antarctica. These new observations are really exciting, and we feel incredibly lucky to have documented these events in Tasmanian waters.
Why are these observations important?
It was believed that Humpback Whales followed the “feast and famine” rule whilst migrating, feeding only in their polar feeding grounds, then fasting on migration and in their sub-tropical calving grounds. We now know this is not the case, with many records and sightings of Humpback Whales feeding during their migration in previous years, including many Wild Ocean Tasmania sightings here in Tasmanian waters.
Feeding during migration, also referred to as supplementary feeding, suggests that there is a need for Humpback Whales to supplement their energy supply outside of their summer feeding in Antarctica. Supplementary feeding may become increasingly important as our Oceans change. Flexibility in feeding practices is important for a species’ ability to adapt to changing Ocean conditions such as increased temperatures and nutrient availability. As temperature and nutrients influence the Ocean productivity, this can ultimately affect the distribution and abundance of prey species for larger marine species like Humpback Whales.
It is also possible that specialised behaviours such as bubble-net feeding may be increasingly observed as the East Australian Humpback Whale population continues to recover from industrial whaling. Such behaviours may have been present prior to over-exploitation, but are only now reappearing and being observed.
What does this mean for Tasmanian waters?
At present we do not fully understand the importance of Tasmania as a feeding ground to Humpback Whales and other cetacean species. However, by investigating how environmental variation and population dynamics can influence the feeding of Humpback Whales in Tasmanian waters, it will help us predict how future Ocean change may influence whale populations. This could also provide evidence for more effective management to reduce threats to Whales during known feeding periods.
The observations in Pirotta et al. were primarily from citizen scientists and highlight the importance of observing and recording our wildlife. In Tasmania you can contribute your whale sightings to the Tasmania Fluke Project (email your photos to email@example.com or to Wild Ocean Tasmania), or report your sighting to the DPIPWE Marine Conservation Programme. So get out there and tell us what you see!
Another proof of the significance of this area for marine wildlife
We’ve had an amazing diversity of wildlife on our recent tours during the Easter holidays, which demonstrates again that the Ocean surrounding the Tasman Peninsula is an area of significance for a variety of marine life. Keep scrolling to read about our special encounters with Orcas, Humpback Whales, a Southern Elephant Seal and a Sunfish.
The youngest Orca ever sighted in Tasmanian waters
On April 1st, we had the privilege to spend some time with two female Killer Whales one of which had a tiny calf by her side. The mother is known to the Eastern Australian Killer Whale Database as ‘EA_0004’ or ‘Square notch 1’ due to the square notch in the back of her dorsal fin (see photo above). We had the feeling that her baby was very young, as it still had a yellow staining and visible fetal folds from being curled up in its mothers womb.
After checking our ID photos, David Donnelly from Killer Whales Australia confirmed that the little calf was only days old when we sighted the pod. This is really exciting, because it means that it was born in Tasmanian waters. It is the first recorded sighting of such a small calf here on this coastline and therefore very important information for the researchers.
The other female of the pod is also known to Killer Whales Australia, but it hasn’t had a name and number allocated yet. The researchers of Killer Whales Australia use scientific methods for the identification process of the Orcas. The process starts with assigning images to an individual animal. Photos of both sides (if available) of the dorsal fins, eye patches and saddle marks will then be analysed. Lastly, at least two additional independent observers have to agree on the individual animal, so it can be given a unique identification number and be added to the catalogue. We expect that this female is going to get an ID number allocated this year. 🙂
Early Humpback Whales
Usually we start to see the first Humpback Whales swim past the coastline of the Tasman Peninsula on their northern migration in early May. It was a big surprise to see the first Humpback Whale a few days ago in early April.
This individual was showing its tail a lot, so we got to capture the first fluke shots for the Tasmanian Fluke Project, a project we set up in collaboration with marine biologist Dr. Maddie Brasier in 2020 to record and identify Humpback Whales in Tasmanian waters. We identified 129 new flukes in our first year which greatly exceeded our expectations.
We’ve sighted this individual whale two days in a row and while I am typing this I heard about another Humpback that was sighted this morning at Cape Hauy.
After we spotted the blow of the Humpback Whale in the distance, we stopped the boat to get another visual. It was coincidence that we stopped right next to a sunfish that slowly swam up to the surface. We’ve had a lot of sunfish sightings this season. Check out this video of a Bumphead Sunfish that we posted to our Instagram page not long ago.
Most of our passengers have never seen a sunfish before and this one was quite an inquisitive one, so we hung with its for a little while until it decided to move on. BTW have you ever seen photos of a baby sunfish? If you haven’t, I highly recommend checking out this article of livescience.com showing photos of arguably one of the cutest baby animals on Earth.
A Southern Elefant Seal
Another big surprise for us was seeing a Southern Elephant Seal amongst the pups at the seal colony. A creature with two big eyes stared at us from in amongst the kelp. It looked a bit like E T at first and very different to the Fur Seals. As it lifted its body up a bit, it was clear that it was an Elephant Seal.
Southern Elephant Seals once bred on King Island in Tasmania, but were sadly wiped out by the sealing industry. According to DPIPWE, each year in Tasmania an average of eight Elephant Seals are reported. The age of the animals visiting Tasmania’s shores varies from yearling animals (one year old) to animals of 16 or more years off age. The closest breeding area of Elephant Seals is Macquarie Island (a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Southwestern Pacific Ocean, about half-way between New Zealand and Antarctica and politically a part of Tasmania).
Fun fact: Southern Elephant Seals are the deepest diving seal in the world. Females have been recorded diving as deep as 1600m with dive durations of up to two hours (information gathered from the DPIPWE website).
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post. If you’d like to join one of our tours and support us with our marine research projects, you can book your trip here or contact us anytime for more information about the different tour options.
Each year we cannot wait for the moment when our East Australian Humpback Whales swim past the Tasmanian coast as they migrate between their sub-tropical breeding grounds and their Antarctic feeding grounds. Relatively little research has been done outside of these breeding and feeding areas, that’s why we joined forces with our marine biologist friend Dr Mads (Maddie Brasier, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies UTAS) and we started the Tasmania Fluke Project.
This project is all about investigating the importance of Tasmania to the East Australian Humpback Whales by collecting ‘fluke’ images. The fluke is the underside of the whale’s tail that is raised above the water as the whale dives, tail slaps or throws the peduncle. Each fluke is unique in its markings, scars, and trailing edge which means they can be used to identify individual whales, a bit like our fingerprints.
Fluke identification is a non-invasive scientific method that has been the basis of whale research since the 1970s. By matching our Tasmanian flukes, we can start to understand how long individual whales are spending in Tasmanian waters and if individual whales are returning to Tasmania each year. We are also comparing them to an international dataset at Happywhale.com which can help us understand transit times and migration routes as they travel between the poles and the sub tropics.
It has been amazing to see an incredible number of Humpback Whales off the Tasmanian coastline this year. We’ve been seeing whales on every trip for nearly two months now. But it has not been this way for some time. Just 60 years ago the Humpback Whale population was reduced to less than 1000 individuals! However, since the ban on commercial whaling, Humpback Whale numbers have been increasing and could be approaching >40,000 Whales in the next few years (Noad et al. 2019).
Despite this increase, Whales and other marine life are still threatened by human activities and our impact on the ocean, including entanglement in fishing gear and marine debris, boat collisions / vessel strikes, plastic ingestion, chemical pollution and climate induced ecosystem change.
We hope that the Tasmania Fluke Project can help raise awareness about the importance of Tasmania to the east Australian Humpback Whale population as a migratory stopover.
You can help by sending any fluke images you would like to contribute to Dr Mads (firstname.lastname@example.org or @madsbrasier on Instagram), by reporting any sightings of entangled Whales to the Tasmanian Whale hotline (0427 942 537) and of course by actively supporting Ocean conservation.
Here are some of the easiest ways to help the Whales and our Oceans:
Support responsible whale watching companies
Abide by national whale watching guidelines when you are on the water
Eat less seafood and only eat seafood from sustainable sources (check out the sustainable seafood guide)
Reduce your plastic use and keep the Seas clean by disposing of rubbish responsibly
If you’d like to stay up to date with the sightings that we’ve had and the fluke images that have been captured along the Tasmanian East coast, check out our project page on ‘Happywhale’ at https://happywhale.com/org/878.
We are offering a $20 voucher for our tours from now until the 30th November 2020 to support the Tasmanian Make yourself at home! campaign.
We have World class scenery and an amazing variety of wildlife right in front of our door step. There really is no reason to travel to distant places.
Update: This offer is valid until the 31st October 2020, so get in quick! 🙂
A chance to see rare wildlife species
Between the months of September and December is the most productive time of the year for the Ocean here in Tasmania. In the winter time, storms break Ocean surface tension through wind and waves. This allows cold nutrient rich water from the Oceans depth to mix with the light rich surface water, creating the basis for the largest plant explosion on the planet. This in turn supports immense numbers of birds, fish, mammals and invertebrates.
The abundance of food also attracts rarer animal species to come closer to our coastline. In the last couple of years for example, we got to see Sei Whales, Dusky Dolphins, Killer Whales, Leopard Seals, a New Zealand Fjordland Penguin and a Southern Royal Albatross to name a few. It’s also a great time to chance seeing some Southern Right Whales and Humpback Whales as they migrate past our coastline. It’s certainly the time of year we look forward to the most and we can’t wait to share a special day on the water with you!
How to redeem the voucher:
To redeem the $20 voucher, simply enter the promo code MAKEYOURSELFATHOME when you book your tour on our online booking system or mention the promo code to us when you call or email us to make your booking.
Tasmania’s Shy Albatross is now classed as endangered
The Shy Albatross (Thalassarche cauta) only breeds on three small islands which are just here off Tasmania: Albatross Island in the Northwest and Pedra Branca and Mewstone in the South of the state. These Ocean Wanderers with a wing span of up to 2.6 meters can fly from Tasmania around the globe and back in 7 to 8 weeks.
Sadly, fewer Shy Albatross offspring are returning to breed every year. From 2005 to 2014 the breeding population on Albatross Island decreased by an average of 2.2% annually (Alderman 2015). According to BirdLife International, the population on Albatross Island is predicted to decline by 33% over the next 60 years or 45% by 2100.
The three biggest threats for all Albatross species are:
An acknowledgement that threats continue
At the start of the 20th century, populations were decimated by the harvesting of their feathers, which were used to plump up mattresses. It was only when numbers got so low that trade was no longer viable that the population began to recover. Fast forward to today, climate change increased the rainfall on Albatross Island as well as air temperatures during the chick rearing period which has lowered the breeding success and violent waves are a hazard for the exposed Pedra Branca colony. Hungry birds ingest plastics and other debris that float in the Ocean and – too often – they end up as incidental by catch by longline fisheries.
This month, the Shy Albatross has been upgraded on the Federal Government’s threatened species list from vulnerable to endangered with only about 15,000 pairs left in the World.
An amazing job has been done by biologists to try and help the species by installing artificial nests on Albatross Island. Studies have shown that birds with high quality nests have greater chance of hatching an egg and producing a chick than poor quality ones. Not all birds can find and keep sufficient nesting material to make a high-quality nest.
But it’s not only up to the scientists. We can all do our bit to help our Tasmanian Shy Albatross and other marine life:
Reduce your waste and dispose of it thoughtfully
Pick up rubbish at the beach and along waterways
Organise a beach clean up
Choose plant-based food– You’ll be surprised how good beer-battered tofu with nori tastes!
Or if you can’t live without eating fish, do your research when buying fish and other seafood and only chose products from businesses with sustainable fishing practices
If you would like to see the beautiful Shy Albatross and other sea birds along our coastline, contact us for the next tour departure times! Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, we have paused our online booking system and are now running tours on request. We look forward to having you on board!
Wow – 2020 – a year that is going to go into the history books. It rolled over us like a storm wave, just that nobody saw it coming. Scary yet fascinating at the same time!
Bushfires and Wildlife Rescue
It started with the widespread bushfires on the Australian mainland. Many people felt the impact of those ferocious fires and lots of wildlife had to suffer. The fires kept burning for a long time. This year, Tassie has been spared, which was a big relief as we experienced some major fires the previous year, during the summer of 2018/19. It was heartwarming to witness an amazing act of kindness and solidarity as the world responded with numerous donations for people and wildlife in need! From knitted pouches to money donations, people from all walks of life wanted to do their bit to help injured and orphaned wildlife. In fact, so many boxes of wildlife supplies have been received, that the surplus was distributed to wildlife carers in other areas not affected by the bushfires as well.
We also received a few hanging pouches and liners this year and are very grateful for the donations. Here is our rescued Pademelon joey ‘Sunny’ trying out his new hanging pouch. You can see how much love went into making these beautiful pouches! And Wombat baby ‘Danny’ seems to like his cozy new pouch as well. 🙂
Tourism drop but Whales all Summer
Of course, due to the fires many people were forced to stay at home and travelling was highly impacted. Most tourism operators could feel a drop in customer numbers this summer. This didn’t stop us from enjoying some Ocean time with smaller groups and we got so spoilt this season!
We saw whales literally all through summer! This has never happened before. Generally, we see the Humpback Whales migrate from Antarctica past our coastline on their way north to warmer waters between the end of September and the end of December. We have seen the odd late arrival in early January in previous years, but no later than that. This year was very different. In fact, the local cetacean researchers asked us to take them out to show them the Whales, because they couldn’t believe what we reported. Some of the whales have made Tasmania their home over summer. A lot of food had been accumulated about 2-3 nautical miles out to sea, especially around the area of the Hippolyte Rocks.
So whenever the weather conditions permitted, we headed out to look for the whales and usually found them feeding, often surrounded by playful seals that made the most of the unusual visitors.
Because of the abundance of food, a variety of other marine life got attracted to the area as well. Hungry Albatrosses would fight over the food from above a bait ball and seals and dolphins were feeding on it from underneath.
And then came COVID-19
After a very different summer season, we were getting ready for the Easter tourist groups. And then COVID-19 hit everybody unexpectedly. Case numbers went up, states locked down and – like so many others – we had to stop our operations and cancel all upcoming bookings.
The period between the end of March to early May is usually one of our favourites, since it is generally the time when the little seal pups get all adventurous and start hitting the water to have their first swims. It’s such a privilege being able to watch them with their big puppy eyes and oversized flippers slide via the bull kelp off the rocks and into the rock pools!
Lucky us that we were still permitted to launch our boat at the local jetty to head out for some ‘Ocean Therapy’. But it’s just so much nicer to share it with likeminded Ocean frothers and animal lovers! 🙂
After all that exercise, the little seal pups quickly get tired and climb back up onto the rocks to have a well deserved sleep next to their mumma.
Easing of Restrictions – So where to go from here?
The good thing about the whole lockdown was that finally the planet had a chance to breathe. It’s never been so quiet on the Tasman Peninsula, there has been less roadkill and mother nature got to do its thing.
What if 2020 was the year we’ve been waiting for? A year to stop. A year to slow down. A year for change?
The whole world is set up for consumerism and Nature is paying for it. The recent bushfires and the COVID-19 outbreak are a strong reminder that we are part of nature and depend on it. Things will have to change if we want to ensure a future for the generations to come.
Ultimately, we believe change happens with us and our actions. People can make a difference, with the choices they make on a daily basis. What do we want to spend our money on? Who do we want to support? How do we want to spend our free time? Do I really need this?
We are aware of our impact and actively work hard behind the scenes to give back to Nature as much as we can. Since the start of our tiny and humble business in 2015, we’ve now raised over 30 wildlife orphans and released them back into the wild. Our focus with our wildlife tours lies on an ethical interaction with the wildlife – no animal gets chased or forced to interact with us. We protect a 20 acre Eucalyptus Forest from logging which serves as habitat for wildlife. We donate to activist groups like Sea Shepherd, to help them protect marine life worldwide. We closely work together with marine scientists to help them with the gathering of data which is necessary for the conservation of wildlife. Our ‘office’ is a solar powered second hand shipping container. Of course, our tours are single-use plastic free and vegan-friendly. We downsized our motors to use less fuel – and the list goes on.
But we want to do more. Maybe we should also slow down a bit more. Maybe we should offer less tours and spend more time on growing plants. Maybe we could incorporate a more holistic approach to our ‘experiences’ and help people reconnect with the Ocean – the basis of life – the wildlife and also the food that we eat and grow. And maybe we can facilitate change or help find ideas for change for those who choose to travel with us. There will be some changes to our operations for sure.
For now, we offer our 2-hour Coastal Adventure tour only. Departure times depend on the weather conditions and our guests preferences. Our online booking system is currently closed, because our availability now depends on travel groups (i.e. families, friends, singles) to maintain social distancing and keep empty seats between passengers. So please contact us for booking enquiries. With the winter Whale migration underway, we should get some awesome Whale encounters again over the next few months. And if the Whales don’t show up on a tour, there is so much else to soak in along our stunning coastline. The Seals are always there, dolphins usually not far behind and the cliffs light up beautifully in the late afternoon when the sun is about to set.
Following a cold and stormy start of summer, the last two weeks of December have been amazing in terms of weather and wildlife activity. The Ocean has come alive! Big schools of fish have attracted predators, Dolphins, Seals and even Humpback Whales for a feast.
It’s the very end of the Humpback Whale migration here in Tasmania. The Humpback Whales spend our winter months up north in warmer waters to breed and give birth. We usually get to see them swim past our coastline on their way south towards their main feeding grounds in Antarctic waters between the end of September and mid December. The incredible amount of food available over the last couple of weeks has been a well deserved treat for the whales that have already swam about 2500km.
Some days have literally been Nat Geo style with hundreds of Bottlenose Dolphins putting on a show for us and lots of sea birds cashing in on some left overs. Check out this short video on Instagram filmed with our drone to see how the whales, dolphins and seals were working together to round up the fish.
Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race
Most Watersport and Ocean enthusiasts have followed the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. It’s an annual event hosted by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, starting in Sydney, New South Wales on Boxing Day and finishing in Hobart, Tasmania. Therace distance is approximately 630 nautical miles (1,170 km). It is considered to be one of the most difficult yacht races in the world, due to the ferocious weather conditions that can occur on this route.
This year, the weather has been relatively calm for the yacht race, which allowed us to head out to sea and greet some of our friends who took part in the race on their way south towards Tasman Island, from where they would turn and head up into Hobart. Not only did we get to wave to our friends onboard the racing yacht, we were also greeted by some more inquisitive Humpback Whales. 🙂
Albatrosses during our bird charter
Another annual event for us has been a bird charter that we provide for a private group at the end of the year. We’ve encountered lots of different species of seabirds, including these special Albatrosses.
Wandering Albatrosses are the largest of the Albatrosses with the greatest wingspan of any living bird, measuring almost 3.5 meters. They spend most of their life in flight, landing only to breed and feed. Wandering Albatrosses can travel vast distances, with one banded bird recorded that travelled 6000 km in twelve days! Unfortunately, these amazing Ocean roaming birds are classed as endangered in Tasmania, which makes it even more special to see them on our bird charter!
We’ve also encountered this beautiful Campbell Albatross. On first sight, they look very similar to the Black-browed Albatrosses, with the white head, the pretty black brow, a bright yellow beak and strong leading edge on the underwing. The main distinguishing feature is their honey coloured iris (instead of the dark brown iris of the Black-browed Albatross). They breed only on the sub-Antarctic Campbell Island which is part of New Zealand.
With so much activity along our stretch of coastline recently, we can only hope that this will continue in the new year. It will be interesting to see how long the Humpback Whales will stay in the area for.
Late summer and autumn is also the best time of the year to snorkel with the Seals in Tasmania. After the females have given birth and the breeding season is over, the animals are more relaxed and therefore even more interested in playing with us. 🙂
Have you noticed that the Ocean has changed colour in Tasmania, from a clear blue to a deep green? The water appears to be a bit murky or ‘soupy’. This is caused from billions of microscopic algae and shrimp-like animals. These tiny drifting organisms are food for some of the largest animals that live in the Ocean.
A few days ago, we had the pleasure of watching a Southern Right Whale have it’s lunch on our Seal & Ocean Expedition. The Southern Right Whale is a member of the ‘Baleen Whale’ family. These Whales don’t have any teeth and feed by filtering food through 220-260 baleen plates that are up to 2.8 meters long and hang from each side of their upper jaws.
Unlike the Humpback Whales that would often undertake some spectacular feeding displays, Southern Right Whales swim with a steady open-mouthed movement through prey swarms, trapping their prey in their baleen bristles, while also filtering water out of their mouth (see photo above).
To the disappointment of the researchers, there was no poo that we could have sampled, but we are very eager to collect some samples during the Whale season to help the scientists with their work, so they can analyse how Baleen Whales stimulate microbial communities through nutrients released in their faeces.
Follow us on Instagram to stay up to date with our conservation projects and wildlife sightings!
And if you are traveling to Tasmania this season and would like to learn more about why whales are so important for the Oceans health and life on Earth, then come and join one of our tours. We’d love to have you on board!