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Reef Report for Tuesday, September 12, 2000

Think Minke!

What a great week on the reef! Excellent visibility has been reported on most reefs over the last couple of days, with 30 metres visibility at Flynn Reef and 25 meters at Milln Reef. The winds over the weekend should stay about the same, southeasterly to northeasterly at 10 to 15 knots. © Undersea Explorer The sun is also going to keep on shining over the weekend, so get out there everybody and enjoy the water!!!

The last two months have been very kind to whale researchers onboard the Undersea Explorer who dove into clear blue waters to mingle with Dwarf Minke whales! A team of whale researchers from the Explorer, James Cook University, and the University of California at Santa Cruz were reunited for the fifth year of Dwarf Minke research and adventures. Humpback whales are awesome, but many feel that in-water encounters with the playful and magical Dwarf Minke on the Great Barrier Reef are an unrivaled experience.

This year the Explorer has encountered more than 200 Minke whales during six weeks of dedicated Minke expeditions. Adventure divers and researchers spent about 80 hours in the water with these incredibly inquisitive and interactive marine mammals. © Joel Groberg The whales seem to enjoy the contact as much as the divers. The research vessel often had to leave the whales, who seemed perfectly happy to prolong the encounter after being with the divers for several hours.

Divers and snorkelers from ages 15 to 70 joined the Undersea Explorer Minke trips, which are rapidly becoming known as the best in-water whale experience in the world. The longest and closest encounters have been shown to be while snorkeling, especially if you donít swim toward the whales. Just floating on the surface seems to inspire the Minkesí curiosity and confidence and often leads to amazingly close interactions.

The Explorerís research has helped give passengers incredible experiences and a valuable understanding of Minkes as they listen to the sounds of the whales and help observe such behaviors as spy-hopping, breaching, bubble blasts, belly rolls, and gulping. The database of more than 100 recognizable individual Minkes helps researchers and divers recognize individual animals through the distinctive markings each whale possesses.

This year saw a number of exciting new discoveries, including recognizing animals from previous years, the first accurate in-water size estimations of Dwarf Minkes, and some interesting new behaviors observed in both people and whales! Further community recognition for the human-whale interaction guidelines produced on these research trips will help ensure that the whales remain in control of interactions on the Great Barrier Reef waters. A big thank you to all the dive operators who have helped in this research by supplying sighting sheets and talking with the researchers about their observations. We all look forward to the next Minke season of 2001, which begins in June and lasts through August.

(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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Great Barrier Reef Enterprises,
Pro Dive Cairns, Undersea Explorer, Joel Groberg

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