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The Magnificence of the Humpback Whale

Written by : Rosie Hoban

The Moment

Have you ever had a moment that completely grounded you? One of those Oh-Sweet-Lord-is-this-really-happening-to-me moments? Heart beating in your mouth, feeling simultaneously both alive and yet strangely removed? Seeing a Humpback Whale, mouth agape, burst through the ocean surface during a ‘bubble net feed’ some 50m from Fin Island cabin was one of those moments for Rob.

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Rob was happily on his 3rd coffee for the morning. Janie was stationed at her desk working at the computer and I was drifting around tidying in the kitchen. Through the pair of ‘big eye’ binoculars Rob was in a concentrated daze shifting his gaze across Squally Channel where the surrounding shores of Pitt, Campania and Gill Islands came into view.

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He had just finished an enjoyable conversation with Janie and a smile was held at the corner of his mouth as he considered his situation. A devoted surfer and water-baby through and through, he was at complete peace in his surroundings. In our time here so far, he had braved the hypothermic temperatures to gaze into the 800m deep ocean depths below, moved our tent to be within meters of the ocean and its soothing gurgles and constantly planned when he could next get in the kayak or throw in a line. Any opportunity to get closer to that saltwater God to which he worships.

“Hey guys,’ Rob started lightly, his eyes peeling away from the binoculars to focus on something closer. “I think I’m seeing a lot of bubbles. Slowly his voice started to increase in pace and pitch. “That wouldn’t be a bubb... OH MY GOD YOU GUYS ITS A BUBBLE NET FEED! I JUST SAW 2 HUMPBACKS LAUNCH THROUGH THE WATER.’

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I rushed to view where he was pointing within a stone’s throw of our cabin but sadly missed the whole affair. His eyes were large and his limbs moved wildly about himself, unable to contain his unbridled joy. When our eyes met I knew he was having that moment and couldn’t stop a giggle escaping. He was still lost in the experience. Elevated by the proximity of a creature who spent its entire existence underwater yet miraculously demonstrated behavior and intellect not so different from our own. A creature that feeds milk to her offspring and sings songs. A creature that appears to watch, learn and then model habits. A creature who works with their counterparts in a bid to increase each others chances of a good feed. A mother of the ocean, a gentle giant, the magnificent, the humpback whale.

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Janie Wray