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Reef Report for Friday, June 29, 2001

More fun with the Minke Whales

The wind continues to be a little fresh this week and will remain blowing high at 20 knots. A few showers over the weekend, however a little sun should be back by Monday. Despite the rough conditions first time visitors to the reef are having a good time. © Undersea Explorer With 15 metres visibility at the Fish Market, Passions of Paradise certified divers saw a white tip reef shark in 10 m of water. They were also lucky enough to spot a rare Titan Triggerfish. The introductory divers were treated to a colourful array of parrotfish and damselfish.

Port Douglas vessel Undersea Explorer has been conducting minke whale trips these past few weeks. Manager of Research and Operations Andy Dunstan recently came back from a trip and this is what he had to say:

Dwarf minke whales in the northern ribbon reefs of the Great Barrier Reef are the most interactive and inquisitive whales in the world. Only described to science in 1985 this whale grows to 8 metres long and actively seeks out vessels, divers and snorkellers. By remaining motionless in the water and never swimming towards a whale these encounters build the whales' confidence, with snorkelling encounters offering the best and closest interactions.

Undersea Explorer had fantastic whale encounters for the 3 weeks before our minke whale season started (these trips are run during the peak sighting period). © Undersea Explorer We have now had 2 weeks of full scale minke whale adventure diving and research trips. So far we have spent over 30 hours in the water with over 80 different individual whales as well as enjoying some excellent pinnacle and coral gardens diving. Encounters with dwarf minke whales usually last for hours, with us having to break off the encounter and leave the whales after some time.

This has again been the case in 2001. Encounters have seen snorkellers hanging onto the whale line from Undersea while the animals pass within metres of them, offering amazing personal experiences and photographic opportunities. Belly rolls, gulping, spy hops and breaching have been just some of the captivating minke whale behaviours observed by snorkellers in the water as our knowledge of the animals increases. Re-sightings of individual whales already known from previous weeks and years have been a key research feature and new sightings add to the database of over 100 recognizable individuals. Including this information with size estimation studies and human interaction and experiential research makes this not just a great adventure for snorkelers and divers, but groundbreaking research into this recently discovered whale.

World-class underwater big animal photographer and journalist Don Tipton said, "I have been on nearly every liveaboard diving vessel in the world and this is the best operation, best experience and best crew I've ever had the pleasure of working with. It is the most environmentally sensitively run marine mammal experience I've seen anywhere."

Great praise from someone who knows!

(C) Pro Dive Cairns The weekly reef report is written by Sue-Anne Chapman of Pro Dive Cairns, who compiles them from the many conversations she has with divers, dive instructors, captains, and others in the Cairns dive community. The report is published weekly in the Cairn Post, the local daily paper and appears here thanks to the courtesy of Pro Dive Cairns.

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