Nala is back in the Bay
EIGHTEEN years after they first sighted her, whale watch operators Wally and Trish Franklin caught their 50th viewing of Nala the whale this week.
The iconic mammal has returned to Hervey Bay waters with a calf in tow and the pair were spotted north of Wathumba Creek off Fraser Island on Monday.
Fraser Coast council events co-ordinator Amanda French was on board the Moon Dancer with Wally and Trish when the “exhilarating” encounter happened.
Ms French is taking part in an Oceania research project and just two days into the expedition she struck gold.
“We have been lucky enough to spot the Bay's most loved whale,” she said yesterday.
“All of the whale boat operators have waited with bated breath for her safe return since the start of the season.
“It was a real thrill hearing Wally announce that he thought the mother and calf were spotted.
“He said it could be Nala. However we couldn't be certain until we saw her fluke.
“Not long after finding her she disappeared from our sights.
“Wally was anxious to find her again and only a few hours later she was sighted again and this time she showed us her enormous fluke.
“Wally confirmed it was Nala, and everyone on the observation deck cheered and clapped.”
It is the 11th year the Franklins have sighted Nala since first spotting her in 1992.
Nala was adopted by the Hervey Bay community in 2005 as part of the Humpback Icon project. In past years her offspring have been named after characters from Disney's Lion King but with names like Simba, Mufasa, Scar and Sarabi running thin, the naming process is going to be opened up this year.
Trish and Wally Franklin have invited the Fraser Coast community to name Nala's newest arrival, believed to be three or four weeks old. Simply email your suggestion with your own name to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nala is expected to spend the next fortnight in the safe waters of Hervey Bay feeding, nurturing and teaching her bub.
“It's incredible for me to think that she has made a safe return considering her massive journey here and the many dangers she faces along the way,” Ms French said.
“The biggest threat, of course, is her journey through the southern whale sanctuary where the Japanese whalers are known to hunt.
“Nala was biopsied by the Japanese in 1997, which was a scary reminder that even Hervey Bay's own whales are at risk.
“For now, Nala is safe, as she swims and surfaces with her new baby in our calm waters.”