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Close-up footage: Massive whale launches at stranded anglers

Three stranded fishermen in the Shoalwater Bay area experienced more than 18 whale encounters in a 36-hour period. One towed their two-tonne boat, and a pod swam under the tow line as Yeppoon Coast Guard rescued them.
Three stranded fishermen in the Shoalwater Bay area experienced more than 18 whale encounters in a 36-hour period. One towed their two-tonne boat, and a pod swam under the tow line as Yeppoon Coast Guard rescued them. Wayne Real

A SUDDEN thud warned lifelong fisherman Wayne Real of an impending danger beneath the surface as dawn broke in Shoalwater Bay.

An electrical fault had rendered his boat lifeless; he and his two mates Arthur Cleary, a former RAAF electrician, and Swede visitor Uffe Edefuhr were stranded, anchored, waiting for help.

"The boat lurched and we reckon it came from behind us," Wayne recalled of the threat in the early hours Thursday morning.

"And those large, horizontal flukes pulled the anchor rope... pulling us about five to ten metres.

"That's as close as we want to come to a whale experience.... our boat is two tonne, these whales are 40 tonne."

The fishermen re-anchored about 30m from the cliffs at Flat Island, frightened, but safe.

In near 60 years on the water, the 64-year-old Lammermoor man had never seen as many whales as he did the 36 hours spent on the water across Wednesday and Thursday.

He was enjoying a fishing trip with his co-boat-owner and mate of 50 years Arthur, and visiting pal Uffe, when electrical issues in the main helm disabled the 6.1m diesel boat.

During their time on the water, the trio counted 18 or more whale encounters; "some were motionless, there were mothers and babies, big bulls, there was just a heck of a variety".

While he admired the migrating pods, Wayne said he and his mates each feared the worst when one launched itself nearby.

"They are not malicious at all, just big gentle creatures, but if you are in their road... you do hear of stories when boats get bumped," he said.

"I have never seen so many whales in all my life, we saw dozens and dozens of pods, from one (whale) to six.

"We saw six bearing down on us, when they got in 25 metres we slammed the boat -'bang, bang, bang' - to turn them away.

"We had another one phase - up and down, up and down - this one rose 30m out from the boat, by the time he went out he was well under the boat.

"It was an experience we don't want to have gain."

Three stranded fishermen in the Shoalwater Bay area experienced more than 18 whale encounters in a 36-hour period. One towed their two-tonne boat, and a pod swam under the tow line as Yeppoon Coast Guard rescued them.
Three stranded fishermen in the Shoalwater Bay area experienced more than 18 whale encounters in a 36-hour period. One towed their two-tonne boat, and a pod swam under the tow line as Yeppoon Coast Guard rescued them. Wayne Real

Wayne said he had been a member of the local Coast Guard organisation for 18 years and never called for assistance, but his latest experience is proof you "never know when it's going to happen".

The Yeppoon Coast Guard received the trio's call for assistance about 8am from 33nm north of Rosslyn Bay Harbour where they departed Wednesday.

As the boat was close to the rocks, it was towed into deeper water before battery packs were passed across and the boat brought back to life.

"However a pod of four whales on the surface interrupted the operation, with three whales passing underneath the tow line on one occasion," Flotilla Commander Jim Warren reported.

But the lure of big fish off the Capricorn Coast has proven too much for Wayne, who will return to the water today determined to show Uffe a good time.

Incredibly close whale encounter near Flat Island in the Shoalwater Bay area.
Incredibly close whale encounter near Flat Island in the Shoalwater Bay area. Wayne Real

It is both men's love of recreational fishing which first united the pair from across the ocean; Wayne is a collector of Abu reels and rods, Uffe sold him his first.

That was 17 years ago, and for the past decade the Swede has made the pilgrimage to Yeppoon for a fortnight of fishing and good company.

"We caught some nice fish, 20-pound cod, and my mate from Sweden caught a variety of different smaller species," Wayne said.

"It's a great experience; seeing the turtles, sea snakes and whales - maybe the whales not as close.

"Uffe has been out with us and seen them before, we were quietly aware of the impending danger... he enjoyed it.

"We are heading out again tomorrow, you don't get off," he said.

Topics:  boating fishing whale whale migration whale season yeppoon coast guard



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