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Skipping work for a Whale of a time ..

Last Sunday night my mate Mel from Left of the Middle Photography messaged to tell she was going whale watching on Friday down at the bay (Port Stephens). I sent the obligatory abusive messages back complaining about work and not being able to go. Monday morning at work i decided to hit the boss up for a day off and managed to talk my way into a day off. Score! So i quickly messaged Mel to tell her she would be putting up with me after all on Friday.

We were heading out with the wonderful crew on Moonshadow – TQC Cruises, departing at 10am from d’Albora Marina in Nelson Bay, about 50 minutes to the North East of Newcastle. I met up with Mel and a few other photographers and we headed for the boat.

It was an absolutely glorious day, the sun was shining, the sky was blue and the port was almost like a lake – perfect conditions to be heading out of the heads in search of whales. The trip out of the port really is spectacular. As you exit the marina, you turn to the right and start to head for the heads passing a number of little bays/beaches along the way.

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Looking out to the heads.

As you go around the point you pass the Marine Rescue base, keeping sailors and boats safe out on the water.

Just before you exit the port you pass Tomaree Headland, where you can see some of the original fortifications made to protect the mainland from invasion during WWII.

The WWII gun emplacements and related structures on Tomaree Head were established from 1941 and form part of the remnants of a system of defence for the protection of Newcastle and Port Stephens – important enough to warrant its establishment as a separate fire command. It includes sites that were developed for heavy gun emplacements, light weapons and machine gun pits, torpedo tubes, search light stations, No. 20 Radar Station RAAF, barbed wire and stake defence, a command post and barracks and other miscellaneous buildings.

Once you’ve exited the heads you get a fabulous view of the spit and out to Shark Island and the old Port Stephens Lighthouse.

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The old lighthouse
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Looking back to the 3 beaches.

It wasn’t too long after exiting the heads before we spotted our first whale!

We spent the next little while following this little pod up and down the coast.

It’s always so hard to cull photos – so apologies in advance LOL

As we were traveling along with them we realised there was baby calf

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That little tiny light grey bump – that’s the baby calf nawww
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With the flick of a tail they disappear beneath the water.

As we headed back into port we detour via the seal colony. They were far less interested in than we were of them.

As often happens we were escorted through the heads by some dolphins.

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Dolphin escort.

Due to the depth of the port there is no heavy industry or big commercial activities, however there is a strong fishing fleet.

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One of the fishing fleet coming home.

We arrived back at the marina just before 1pm, with enough time to jump off and grab some hot chips, before we head back out again – yes we were doubling up and doing two whale cruises.

It took us a little longer to find a whale on our afternoon cruise, but none the less we did find some.

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Whale Tails, both thrilling and disappointing at the same time
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The ever wandering Albatross

It was a tail kind of afternoon …

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The slick / footprint of the whale helps to track where they might pop up next.

We had turned to make the trip home when in the distance we saw this little dude absolutely playing up a storm.

The captain made a beeline for him.

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Hello there

Thankfully he hadn’t worn himself out before we got there.

and to finish off a short video taken on the morning cruise.

thanks for stopping by.

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To Boat Harbour for Whales

The weather has been almost perfect this weekend – for a winter weekend, and its been a cold one this year! With winter cabin fever feeling like its taking over we headed north about 45 minutes to the edge of beautiful Port Stephens to Boat Harbour.

From the easternmost end of Ocean Parade in highest part of the suburb, adjacent to Tomaree National Park there are striking views of the coastline. On a clear day it is possible to follow the coast southwards to the horizon, well beyond the City of Newcastle (our home). It’s a popular spot for whale watching in the winter as they migrate north and today was no exception.

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The path leading out to the point was quite busy when we arrived.
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The view looking south, at the furthest point of the rocks you can see the magnificent Stockton Sand Dunes rising out of the landscape.
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The sea was rough but not wild like it can get here.

We had barely made it to the top of the walking trail and started to look out into the blue abyss before we saw what we had come searching for – a whale!

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Our first spotting for the day.

Quite a few pods passed by quite quickly and all on the move, not too much splashing around and certainly no breaching.

Then the pause, so i went hunting around for a few shots whilst we waited (and hoped) for the next pod/s to make their way past.

I always love the sea mist on the coastline, but find it hard to capture and even harder to edit. I was quite happy with these ones considering i had my 100-400mm lens on.

As i was hunting through the view finder for mist compositions the views of the Stockton Sand Dunes came into view, and i had to take some photos. The ripples and rises of the dunes are so clear. The two people standing on the rocks in the first picture provide some scale.

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Stockton Bight sand dunes in the Worimi Conservation Lands.

Created thousands of years ago, they are the largest moving coastal dunes in the Southern Hemisphere and the dunes tower as much as 40 metres above the sea level. The Worimi Conservation Lands include over 25km of coastline – most of stunning Stockton Beach, which curves 32km from the Hunter River at Newcastle to Buribi Point in Anna Bay, Port Stephens. Behind the dunes is a forest of blackbutt and smooth-barked apple gums, with paperbark pockets.

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Stockton Bight sand dunes in the Worimi Conservation Lands.
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Moon spotting in the daylight

And finally in the distance along Stockton Bight we saw another couple of pods approaching. Capturing whales with the dunes in the background was an absolute highlight and a shot i hadn’t really considered so i stoked.

Closer they came …

come on, keep comingĀ  …

Can you imagine being the guy in the sea kayak or the fishing boat!

and closer they came …

and with the flick of a tail they were gone, and so it was time for us to go as well.

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Wave of the tail to say goodbye

What an awesome way to spend Sunday afternoon. Thanks for stopping by.

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Sleepy Sunday Migration

The wind was blowing, the sky was blue but that warm doona enticed us to stay in bed a little bit longer this morning, so after a bit of a later start we headed into the beaches to see if we could spot some more whales – this time with camera in hand!

We started at the ocean baths and walked around to Newcastle beach.

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Empty Ocean Baths
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Great viewing platform
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Looking back to the Ocean Baths
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Newcastle Beach

We grabbed a quick breaky and hot chocolate at a cafe that looks out over Newcastle Beach – Liquid Gold Cafe – check ’em out if you’re in town.

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Just what the Doc ordered on a windy cold morning

We saw a few puffs of whale breath far out in the ocean so we made our way back to the baths hoping a few might pop up closer to shore.

The wind was whipping the top off the waves.

Whilst the canoe pool was empty the waves were just lapping over the back due to their size and some were washing over the back of the main pool.

As we hadn’t seen any whales earlier in the day, we headed back again in the afternoon after my meeting and we did at least manage to spot these guys, but that was a close and as active as they got today, i think they definitely had the sleepy Sunday migration blues today.

The whales may not have been playing, but the surfers were out and trying not to get munched my the waves.

The wind hadn’t dropped and the waves were still being whipped about by the wind and it was too cold to stick around for sunset today.

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Whaling about

Whale season is in full swing along the east coast of Australia and there are some great viewing points right here in Newcastle. So with a few of the girls we decided to headĀ  in and see what we could capture with our big bertha lenses in tow.

Even with our big bertha these whales were not coming to close to shore.

Tail watching

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