Migaloo spotted up north as fisherman claims whale increase

WHITE WHALE: Migaloo slipped past the Gladstone region on his way north, but was spotted off Port Douglas.
WHITE WHALE: Migaloo slipped past the Gladstone region on his way north, but was spotted off Port Douglas. Contributed

THERE are whales everywhere in and off the Gladstone region, but our most famous, the almost entirely white humpback Migaloo, was spotted yesterday way up north off Port Douglas.

Migaloo, Aboriginal for "white fella", is almost legend in Queensland waters after years of entrancing whale watchers up and down the coast.

First spotted in 1991, Migaloo, now believed to be about 25 years old, is part of the annual humpback migration from the Antarctic up the east and west coasts of Australia.

He has been seen out on the southern parts of the Great Barrier Reef in previous years, coming close to Lady Elliot and Heron Islands among others.

His movements have drawn so much attention because of his distinctive almost all-white markings that Migaloo has his own website where you can track his movements, and is also the subject of much chatter on various social media platforms.

Photographer Tom Fone told the ABC he took pictures of Migaloo for about 20 minutes near Opal Reef east of Port Douglas in far north Queensland on Thursday.

"I saw Migaloo about 10 years ago luckily but ... we've been seeing humpback whales pretty much every day for the last three or four weeks now, so it's a pretty special time of year for us,'' he said.

"We were at a standstill, he swam towards us, not breaching but just coming up for air a couple of times and then literally swam underneath the back of the boat ... under no stress or anything like that but just swam across the back of us."

And there are plenty of stories of close encounters with humpbacks off the Gladstone region, too.

An Agnes Water professional fisherman tells of the increasing numbers of whales he sees compared to a couple of decades ago.

On still nights when out wide the fisherman said he has to bang the side of his aluminium boat to let the whales know he is there, for fear of them coming up for air and upsetting his small vessel.

While on a surfing trip out to the reef from Seventeen Seventy this correspondent and a mate were awestruck when a huge humpback surfaced between us and the boat soon after paddling across to the break.

It's a great story to tell, but at the time it was at first terrifying when so close to a submarine-like creature.

The next morning on the same trip we were motoring along the edge of a reef after having spent the night in a sheltered lagoon, and noticed a pod of humpbacks moving in the same direction between us and the reef.

It appeared they were a little disturbed and trying to outrun us, pinned between the boat and reef. We shut off the engine, and after a short time they too shut down and relaxed, playfully lolling about in the crystal clear water.

At this time of year nearly everyone who ventures outside in the good weather has a whale of a story to tell - isn't it wonderful?

Remember, it's their back yard, so keep a safe and courteous distance and they will come back.

BREACHING: The whale migration is in full swing.
BREACHING: The whale migration is in full swing.

Topics:  heron island migaloo outdoors port douglas whales

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