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Blog: Whale tales

Paul Chai journeyed up the NSW coastline during the 2012 whale migrating season. Recount his trip.

Watery playground

Posted by: Paul Chai | 16 October 2012 | 0 comments
Cape Byron Lighthouse

The view from Cape Byron Lighthouse is a whale-heavy one as the water around the cape seems to be a cetacean playground.

Far from the solitary outpost of the imagination, the lighthouse on the tip of Cape Byron Lighthouse is busier than the Byron Beach Hotel at sunset when I arrive on a Saturday to take a National Parks lighthouse tour. The first tour of our most easterly light is full so I go to the lighthouse café for a ginger beer to wait and I add a stroll through the interpretative display at the base of the lighthouse itself which contains the original light, as well as a range of ephemera from the days when it was manned.

Stepping up

I eventually meet lighthouse guide Ken Ohlsson at the entrance steps and he takes a handful of us inside the giant torch. The lighthouse was last manned in 1989 and our first stop is the red warning light that tells ships of the rocks below. The offending hazard is about three kilometres away but the light projects seven nautical miles via a series of prisms that that direct the light in a straighter-than-ordinary way. The big fella above shines its beam out 27 nautical miles, or to the horizon.

The beam of light flashes every 15 seconds, which is known as the character of the light that lets you know which lighthouse it is. Every lighthouse in the world has its own character, should you be so lost you can’t tell which coast, or even country you are in.

Pod cast of thousands

There are some characters off shore, too, as Ken and the group step out onto the blustery balcony of the lighthouse. There is whale breaching going on in two spots that we can see and Ken surveys the waters with an experienced eye and reckons on at least seven separate pods of whales mucking about. We stand and chat from the incredible vantage point as the whales put on various attention-seeking (and getting) acrobatics before heading back down to ground level, where a crowd has been listening to us “aaah” and “oooh” from on high. A few of us from the group spied a pod that looked to be cruising towards the coast. We walk over to the path that leads to Australia’s easternmost point and sure enough we get a cruise by from at least four adult humpbacks. Some of my new friends are first-time whale watchers and very excited so we stand and watch the pod until we can’t make them out anymore.

View from the Cape Byron Lighthouse

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