The Doust Files – Albany Advertiser 2/8/2011

We didn’t have to go out. We could have cancelled, stayed on shore in the warmth and comfort of our homes, our workplaces, our holiday homes. But we didn’t. We were brave.

The rain was already pelting down as we left the boat pen. The Zimbabweans climbed on deck but three of them decided very quickly to return below. One of them never ventured on deck again.

I stayed up top with the actuary. I didn’t get his name but he said he was doing his honours in actuary studies. About six others stayed with us.

Once we were out of Princess Royal Harbour the weather took a nastier turn. The rain came in harder, the swells got deeper and the boat rocked and rolled as though Bon Scott himself was at the wheel.

The Captain of the day, Tony Harrison, did his best to yell above the roar of the Great Southern Ocean and the flapping of the spinnaker.

He told us all he could remember about hump back whales, why they were out there, why they were there this time of the year and why they were giving birth when they normally saved that part of their lives for the Indian Ocean.

The actuary and I stayed with him and helped each other with the words we collected on the wind, putting them together to make complete sentences that made sense.

On shore not far from Ataturk the lookout spotted a whale slightly north of Bald Head. Off we went in hot but careful pursuit.

We found her and hers and Tony said it was probably last year’s calf.

With the weather refusing to improve the support crew refused to be intimidated and clambered around the deck with Anzac biscuits and scones.

The actuary and I screamed: Whale ahoy! Four of the beauties.

Tony pulled the boat around and we were treated to a marvellous display of hump back gymnastics. Whales were leaping out of the water, twisting, turning, flapping their great tails.

People struggled on deck, laughing, screaming, cheering. The rain pelted, the ocean washed on board and drenched most of us, including me and my mobile phone which never worked again.

We stared in awe as the great mammals calmed, then swam around us, checking us out to decide if we were friend or foe, then heading off for the Indian Ocean while we headed back to Princess Royal Harbour.

What a day. It’s a tradition for me now. Every year I go twice, once for the hump backs and once for the southern rights.

As I said goodbye to the actuary and his friends, I said: You wait, tomorrow the weather will be glorious. And it was.

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