Over the weekend, a Queensland mother-of-two had an extraordinary experience with the ocean’s gentle giants when a leaping whale put on a spectacular show.
Leanne Gordon was on the water with Cooly Tweed Cruises on Sunday when a “playful” humpback suddenly breached right next to the boat.
Gordon, who was with her adult daughter Karly and four international students she was hosting, was left gobsmacked.
But the marvellous encounters didn’t stop there; half a dozen curious marine mammals continued to approach the boat.
The humpback whale breached right night to the boat, and Leanne Gordon manged to snap the moment. (Leanne Gordon)
“It was very slow for the first half hour and then we saw around four different pods,” Gordon told 9news.com.au.
“In the end, we had close encounters with approximately six.”
Gordon said the highlight “was definitely when one breached so close to the boat”.
She said it left a crew member “in shock”.
“I saw it come up beside the boat and then it just came out of the water,” Gordon explained.
“The lady in the photo is a crew member and she had just moved to where she was and was very surprised.
“Its fin hit the side of the boat as it came down.
“I was the only person lucky enough to capture the moment.”
The close encounters did not stop there, multiple whales made close passes next to the boat. (Leanne Gordon)
Every year starting from around May, tens of thousands of humpback whales migrate up the east coast of Australia from the freezing waters of Antarctica.
Wildlife scientist, Dr Vanessa Pirotta, told 9news.com.au the whale highway is in full swing now with animals observed going both north and south.
Every year, tens of thousands of humpback whales migrate up the east coast of Australia. (Leanne Gordon)
“Generally, humpback whales swim up from Antarctica to warmer waters every year to have their young, but how long they stay in those waters varies,” Pirotta said.
“It’s dictated by a number of factors.
“These include environmental or social factors, for instance, mothers with young may prefer quieter waters, or perhaps whales might hear the call of others and decide the waters over there are worth swimming by.
“How long they stay in Australian waters might vary.”
A month ago a rare white whale was spotted off the Queensland coast, fuelling hopes the beloved Migaloo had been sighted.
Pirotta added conservative estimates place the east coast population of humpbacks at greater than 35,000 individuals, and reminded people to keep a distance.
“You should keep at least 100-metres away,” she said.
“Whales may choose to come to you. If so, it is best to keep the vessel in neutral or turn off engines until the whale is sighted at a safe distance from the vessel.”