Letters to the Editor [39]

just thought you would like to know of a great paddle I had on the weekend.

I was at Kioloa beach just north of Batemans Bay with the family and put to sea for a short paddle on Sunday. After about fifteen minutes I saw the characteristic plumes of whale spray, although they seemed to be smaller than normal.

I thought that they must have been dolphins but I paddled towards them and found a pod of about 20 pilot whales. They were extremely friendly and swam beside my boat for about 45 minutes. Occasionally I would hear a great splash and catch a glimpse of them airborne as they skylarked around. This was a very impressive sight although thankfully they did it at a distance.

Whenever a powerboat came near they would submerge and hide, but if I paddled away they would join me again. One of the most amazing things was the sound of the whale noises which, when they started, was a very high pitch squeal that would come from all directions. I started to go to the east of Brush Island and they accompanied me.

At about a kilometre out to sea we met up with a bigger pod so that there must have been 50 all up. I was paddling in the dead centre of the pod and the sea was absolutely alive. The whales showed no fear, often surfacing 5-10 feet from the boat (Unlike humpbacks their breath doesn’t stink either). I had five large ones (about the size of a landcruiser ) that kept in a perfect line behind me, all surfacing in unison, as well as a mother and calf which remained on my port side at about 20 feet.

After about fifteen minutes of this and in a stiffening offshore breeze I decided to turn back, having had about an hour all up paddling with them. The whole thing was a very gratifying experience. I would like to know if anyone else has come across pilot whales and what has been their experience.

Captain Ahab (Doug Fraser)