WHALE watching crowds in Hervey Bay saw nature at its most primal on Monday as they saw tiger sharks and a great white shark devouring the carcass of a whale calf.
Vicki Neville, who was aboard the Tasman Venture, said she and other members of the crew had given the people on board the option of not going near the carcass - but the group of whale watchers, both during the morning and afternoon sessions, were keen to see the sharks in action.
She said she had worked in the whale watching industry for 16 years and it was only the second time she had seen a carcass floating in waters off Fraser Island.
Vicki said it was hard to know what had caused the death of the whale calf.
"It didn't look sick," she said.
"When whales are sick they are usually covered in lice and this one wasn't.
"It was just floating there already dead."
Vicki estimated it had been dead for about 24 hours.
She said the crew had noticed a white substance billowing from the calf's entrails.
At first, the crew thought it was blubber but then it was suggested it might be milk and it was possible the calf had fed not long before it died.
Vicki said the calf may have become separated from its mother and had then become the target of predators.
She saw a 3.5m great white shark attacking the calf as well as several 5m tiger sharks.
"It was very interesting for us to watch and see how thick that blubber is," Vicki said.
She said it was commonly known that killer whales enjoyed devouring the lips and tongues of humpback whales and she noticed the calf's tongue was missing.
"It must be something of a delicacy," she said.
"It was a pretty rare occurrence," she said.