Orca encounter a big treat
PETER Lynch saw a sight he never thought he'd ever see off the coast of Hervey Bay last week when a pod of killer whales found themselves in trouble after entering the Great Sandy Strait.
Three of the whales died. Five others were able to be rescued after becoming stranded on sandbanks.
In those first dramatic few hours when a crew from the Queensland Parks and Wild
life rushed to the scene to monitor the health of those five whales, Mr Lynch, who operates Blue Dolphin Cruises in Hervey Bay, made himself available to be part of the rescue effort.
He watched as the five orcas were kept in good condition before being rescued by the high tide.
He also saw the tragic sight of the bodies of the three orcas that died.
Finally the remaining 11 members of the pod, which had kept Hervey Bay spellbound during their week-long visit, left for deeper waters. Just as he had been there throughout their journey, Mr Lynch was there again to see them go.
"I went out and said goodbye," Mr Lynch said.
"It was sad that three of them didn't make it, but 11 did."
Mr Lynch had seen orcas in the wild before while visiting Macquarie Island in the sub-Antarctic but he never expected to see them off the coast of Hervey Bay.
Mr Lynch assisted the Sea World crew which monitored the whales, manning the boat and also hosting seven of the crew in his home for the week.
Busy with the rescue effort, Mr Lynch didn't have a chance to take groups out to see the killer whales, which are actually the largest members of the dolphin family.
So he passed passengers who were keen to see the pod on to Jason Brigden at Whalesong.
Mr Brigden was already conducting dolphin watch tours and said the chance to see the orcas had led to a huge pre-season boost before the humpbacks arrive.
Mr Brigden said he had been out every day with groups keen for a glimpse of the orcas.
He estimates he took about 300 people out to see the whales during their brief stay - and understandably those that missed out were a little upset.
"It's fantastic, they have been a real drawcard," Mr Brigden said.