Recently, we caught up with Captain Kerry Lopez of the luxury catamaran, Eye Spy, and Brisbane Whale Watching owner. With 24 years’ experience, Captain Kerry has a lot of stories and knowledge to share. This is part two of our series discussing H2 and Migaloo, the white whales, as well as the humpback whale migration. Read part one here.
By regulation 100 meters, but if the whale comes to you, you have to remain stationary. When the whales are moving the boat has to remain on the side, so keep the whale midship at all times so you are not leapfrogging or chasing.
They become sexually active at 5 years old and then have a baby every second year after that. There has been recording of a whale living until 80 years old but the majority of whales will live until they are 50 or 60. They have the longest bonding relationship in the mammal world so these calves will stay with their mum for 18months. Babies will double their weight in the first year.
Mainly it is the surface activity, the humpback is the most active of all the whales. Not all the whales will pectoral slap at you, wave at you, tail slap, breaching, spy hopping. Their surface is the most unique thing that sets them apart from other whales.
The other thing is their long pectoral fins; most other whales have short pectoral fins. The humpbacks have massive long pectoral fins, some up to 5 metres in length.
There are a few reasons scientists believe they do it and one is the males competing for females, also to remove the sea lice and barnacles because the force of the breach removes all those barnacles, sight where the vessels are as they can hear different engine noises so they breach to sight the vessel. Also, communicate between the pods. They are incredibly intelligent.
We like to think it’s for us.
Often the whales will roll belly up and you can tell by the shape of the genital slit. So the female will be a Y shape. The males will be wider at the bottom with two internal bulges at the end.
Over the years I have named over 30 whales.
So we identify them by their markings. I mean where do I stop!
No, we see so many. We keep the data ourselves – so we record it all but we don’t send it to anyone. Once upon a time we would send it into Parks and Wildlife but found out they did nothing with it. So we share all our information with Queensland Museum and donate to different organisations.
First of all boarding the boat looking and watching all the excited passengers jumping on board Eye Spy for a day out in the marine park with the whales. So that’s pretty exciting. They can be anywhere for little babies to 100-year-old people. So you get to meet and greet a lot of different nationalities, and a lot of different people from all around the world.
And then we depart the jetty and head out to the marine park. We do a commentary on the islands surrounding the bay and cruise really close to the island and right next to Moreton Island.
And then we get into the whale sighting ground, and that’s when it gets really exciting.
So once we have spotted the whales I will give everyone an idea of how we will use the boat as a clock so that they know where the whales will be and then we stay with the whales and give them a commentary about the behaviours that we are observing and how many whales we have sighted. We see tears, we see lots of different emotions. All the oos and the ahhs and the Eye Spy magic comes out!
The whales, dolphins and turtles! And of course the people! Seeing the emotions of people. The whales are very mesmerising and unique animal and I think to be able to share the environmental facts and educate people on how they have gone from near extinction to nearly full recovery. That’s a real buzz.
But not only that also the crew – to see my crew come up through the ranks as well. I’ve had a lot of crew come up the ranks who are now captains. Jai on board here just got his class 5 so he docked the boat today, and that gives me a lot of joy.
It makes it all worthwhile because not only do they love the whales they love the people, they love the interaction and they get a career.
This year we have been experiencing between 3 and 5. Historically it has been two and then they will join up every now and then but last year we had 11.