It’s an old joke that people who go whale watching, more often than not, end up just “ocean watching” due to the general infrequency with which whales actually breach the surface. To spot a single whale is somewhat rare, and to spot a pod of several whales is statistically unlikely. But late last week, a Sapphire Coastal Adventures tour boat off the coast of Bermagui in New South Wales, Australia got to bear witness to what may be a once in a lifetime event: a megapod of whales.
When the tour boat operators let loose a ball of baitfish into the waters in the hopes of summoning whales for tourists, they got whales all right. Specifically, they got over 100 humpback whales, hungry and eager.
“The big smell, fish everywhere, whales busting up through it. Now the whales on the outside were slapping their tails, sorting of herding the bait in together and then the whales coming up and sort of busting up all over the place,” Simon Miller, owner of Sapphire Coastal Adventures, told Reuters. “It’s pretty incredible stuff.”
The whales tend to frequent this section of the ocean as they migrate back north from Antarctica to reproduce, so the boat operators were expecting to see a few whales, but certainly not this many. The largest congregation of whales Miller had ever personally seen only numbered around 20.
A ‘megapod’ of more than 100 humpback whales were seen feeding off the coast of Australia last week as they migrate to Antarctica | Read more: https://t.co/9VaRWR5oSw pic.twitter.com/s37qttxCBO
— RTÉ News (@rtenews) September 14, 2021
“Last year, this exact same week, we had a mass aggregation of humpback whales,” Miller told Reuters. “What that is, is where you get a megapod and it’s where you’ve got more than 20 whales at the time feeding on a particular area.”
“We’ve been witnessing whales feeding on the south coast for maybe, like, 18, 19 years, since I’ve been doing it, 19 years. But we’ve never witnessed them feeding in such huge aggregations before,” he said.