Dolphins in the Harbour at Sunset!

Dolphins in the Harbour at Sunset! (Written on Mar 13, 2013)

Dolphins in the FBH

Photo credit M.Jenner

In sunset golden hues a bottlenose dolphin surfaces between the jetties and the Fishing Boat Harbour.
Photo credit M.Jenner

We are still alongside at the service wharf for most of the day between waiting for equipment and the other vessel shuffling to another jetty.  Skipper has his work cut out for him as interested walkers stray too close to Whale Song for his liking.  Racing across the main saloon he bursts onto the aft deck skidding across the steel – his hackles up, barking like crazy and his tail wagging to billio!  We let him go and enjoy watching the reaction of the too-close walkers.  Generally they burst out laughing, surprised at the small size of the large noise-maker, but he does accompany them by running the length of the ship, barking through the skuppers desperately trying to escort them “off and away from” his premises.  He takes his “Security” JD very seriously!

Carrie selects and processes sound grabs from the daily acoustic data collection, finding sei whale calls at 80-35 Hz.  Inday selects and uploads photos for our website entries and I check over all the unpublished daily pieces I have written and create the captions for the chosen photos.   Impromptu visitors swing by and we have endless coffees and chats.  It is all good!

While photographing the sunset with all the familiar vessels in all the familiar places, a “foot-print” catches my attention.  “Hey, Skip we have a dolphin!”  He understood this immediately and needing no encouragement, races aft to the swim platform, where he deftly runs up and down, excitedly awaiting his daily, marine-mammal fix!  There it is, the unmistakable “phu-wuh”, this is a sub-adult bottlenose dolphin and perhaps one we have photographed before, we shall check the photos.  The light is low but the images show its’ grey dorsal fin with an unusual tangerine hue from the sinking sun!

Curt and I resist turning on the TV for the usual news time of 6pm.  Then 7pm comes and goes and the TV is still blank.  For a bit anyway, we hope that the news can survive without us.  Perhaps we will watch a block-buster movie instead – this is the Hollywood News…  When we are underway Curt does the 6-9pm watch and I need to sleep between 9pm and 12, so we both don’t get a chance to watch movies.  This is a rare, but welcome mental relax.  In fact, I will be so relaxed I might not even recall the movie at all!


At Sea Reflections

Our time at sea has taught me that clarity of observation and thought is a beautiful, purifying process.   High and extended concentration is necessary and entirely possible.  Being at sea you need to be observant but at the same time, by being at sea you become observant.  I love it!  Questions and statements such as “What’s that noise?” and “Hey, there is a kill slick, wow, you can smell it, we’re down wind”, indicate heightened senses about the world around you.  It’s a circle of sensory data retrieval, processing and understanding – honed mind you, over a couple of decades.  This stuff doesn’t happen overnight – like Pantene!

In Chris Brays’ book “The 1000 hour Day” he mentions these types of concepts with the following statement, among other insightful words “At home our minds are always so busy with things to do that we don’t often get a chance to deeply explore our thoughts.”  I am encouraged that the whirring thoughts and full journals are a product of the process of adventuring and daring to adventure, exploring and daring to explore.  I am gladdened for this continued experience and that others understand this too.   I just have to keep buying journals!  Friends Peter and Patsy, after walking in the bush for extended periods, even up to 30 days, also have an extreme sense of heightened awareness.  No doubt, operating in “life-threatening” situations, whether rocky or wobbily, puts us at our keenest.

Our “at-sea” life is surprisingly busy and “regimented”, in the sense of watches for driving Whale Song and shifts for Visual and Acoustic observation.   Regularity of work brings ability for longevity of activity with consistency.  The randomness and excitement of sightings and experiences within a framework of work is addictive and keeps me going.  Our diet of high carbohydrate foods, plenty of salad and vegetables and fruit is sustaining and combined with all the wonderful situations we experience becomes intoxifying.


The here and now…


Silver gulls are actually pretty – they just sound awful!
Photo credit M.Jenner

Back in our regular pen we enjoy our surrounds again, noticing the demanding, screeching juvenile silver-gulls that have taken up residence in force, on the extension of Jetty 2.  Scanning the harbour Curt and I discuss the status quo, vessels in the same places for near a decade, indeed the fabric of the fishing boat harbour and note the changes.  A “roof” is appearing across the harbour above new pens and more boats are on a new floating extension.  Splashes 10m from the stern in the twilight are two dolphins swimming and swirling quickly to catch fish, perhaps attracted to our aft lights.  Curt and I, on the main deck level watch below, as Skipper dances along the stern platform.  Suddenly, a strong blow indicates a dolphin is very nearby!  Both of us have a great image imprinted in our memory now!  A dolphin swam just under the water on an angle towards the aft starboard quarter of the swim platform appearing as a light grey body in the deck lights.  Rolling its’ head upwards and looking right towards Skipper, whom was looking down into the water!  Surely, only a half of a metre separated them!  I would love to have seen Skippers’ eyes, they must have been the size of dinner plates!

Photo credit M.Jenner

Orange-gold bathes vessels alongside in the harbour.
Photo credit M.Jenner

The sunset was magical, the orange-gold light reflecting on the glass buildings of Fremantle and in the just-twilight the dolphins hunting near Whale Song delightful.  The water is alive and even alongside we continue to experience it.  Back again in Freo, I wonder about “Bob”, the blue penguin seen in the harbour from September.  I shall ask my cray fishermen friends if they have seen this cute penguin since we left in January.  Also we wonder about “Bernadette”, a hawksbill turtle that has been seen in the harbour for the last two summers.



We thank all the crew involved in these trips from Fremantle to Jervis Bay and back – Captain Curt, Dale, Resty, Sam and myself on the Marine Team keeping Whale Song ably going and to the Science Team for all the scientific data collection, Maria, Inday, Carrie, Sacha, Peta, Stacey, Nicole and Tasmin.

Our Defence contact, Chris “Daffy” Donald is a great believer and achiever, with many great stories to share.   L3-Oceania personnel, Rodney and Chris are always helpful and fun team members.

Those whom assisted with logistics, including Daffy doing two grocery runs pushing grocery carts with me in Vincentia, Benny and Rodney also kindly pushing grocery trolleys for our re-supply in Port Lincoln and Scotty organising absolutely everything while alongside at HMAS Creswell are due huge thanks.  I want to know if Rodney has made a Lego whale yet?  I’d say you’ll need to purchase some more pieces!

The “high” of the journey and the “high” of completion are intense.  A day or so afterwards, a “flatness” descends.   Nothing compares to riding the waves surrounded by albatross.  I am excited to spend more time with Micah and see Tasmin again! Yahoo!

Neatly tucked away alongside while the rain descends in heavy grey noisy sheets,




Centre for Whale Research

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