The image of Sugarloaf Rocks in the storm I posted a few days ago did not convey the feeling of being there very well – I think this was because the sun was shining through a gap in the clouds and everything looked pretty nice. It was actually blowing a gale, there were big seas and it was threatening to rain. So I reworked the image in black and white and I think this better conveys the sense and power of the storm.
It seems winter is dragging on forever. This last storm has some of the strongest winds and biggest swells of the winter. For those unfamiliar with Sugarloaf Rocks, the main rock is at least 25 metres high, probably more.
It was hard to stand still to take the shot – every time a gust of wind hit, you were forced backwards!
The whale watching season has started! At the moment there is about 1 humpback an hour passing on their way back to Antartica for the summer feeding grounds. It is very early in the season, and individual whales seem to be arriving – perhaps these are unaccompanied males. As the season progresses the numbers will increase (last year they peaked at around 8 an hour in October), and we will start to see pods with mixtures of calves and grown whales.
For those who aren’t familiar with the humpback migration off Western Australia here are some facts.
Each year an estimated 36,000 humpbacks leave the Antarctic waters and migrate north to Campben Sound north of Derby. The Antartic waters are too cold for newborn calves who have very little or no blubber to protect them. The mothers-to-be travel north to give birth in the warmer waters, and the rest go with them. They seem to gather in Flinders Bay near Augusta before rounding Cape Leeuwin and going north. This occurs April/May and we rarely see these whales in Geographe Bay – they seem to travel a long way offshore. Up north the new mothers have to fatten the calves before their return to Antarctica. Whale milk is around 60% fat and the calves put on a layer of blubber nearly 1m thick, and this all comes from the mother. While up north the whales have no food source, so it is believed they don’t eat from the time they leave Antarctica to the time they return.
On the return southwards journey many of the whales travel closer to the coast. Those closer inshore eventually wind up in Geographe Bay. When they reach the shallow waters of the bay they turn west and round Cape Naturaliste before continuing south. It seems perhaps 15-20% of the whales travelling south wind up in Geographe Bay and they can often be seen less than 50m from the shore. Castle Rock, Meelup, Pt Picquet, Eagle Bay, Rocky Point and Bunkers Bay are all good vantage points as well as the whale lookout near the Cape Naturaliste lighthouse.
These were from the same shoot as the last one.
In this second image the water flows very fast into this little bay. If you drop something in there it is gone forever!
Here is another example.
The stormy setting made for some interesting images – enjoyable until the rain came.
I went to Kilcarnup with Mark Stothard this morning. It had been raining solidly all night, but we saw on the radar that the southern edge of the rain band was level with Kilcarnup, so it was worth a try. There were a couple of showers early but we managed about 90 minutes before we saw a solid band of very black cloud from horizon to horizon. At that point we gave up and headed back to the car in the rain. Here is one of my efforts.
We have had some severe gales lash the coast this week. There were forecasts of a lot of rain (which we got), 125k/hr winds (which never got that strong), and 6-8 mtr swells (more like 2-3). I went to Sugarloaf rocks today and the swell/waves had increased but not to 6m levels.