Two men were knocked unconscious when the humpback whale breached underneath their boat, throwing it into the air
A man remains in hospital with facial injuries after a humpback whale breached underneath a boat, throwing it into the air in the Whitsundays on Saturday (5 August).
Six men were returning from a reef fishing trip when the incident happened, close to Gloucester Island in the Whitsundays off the northeast coast of Queensland, Australia.
The Department of Environment and Heritage (EHP) is now warning boat skippers to be extra vigilant.
At this time of year, thousands of humpback whales migrate along the Queensland coast.
Many whales also head to the Whitsundays to birth their calves because of the warmer waters.
The fishing group were in a 8.5-metre aluminium boat when the incident happened. Three other men were also injured and have since been released from hospital.
Speaking to ABC news, the boat’s skipper, Oliver Galea said the incident happened so quickly.
“He’s [the whale] come up — or she — and she’s thrown the boat up in the air with a bit of a twist and dislodged everyone off their feet within half a second,” he explained.
“Nobody hears of it — it’s not something that happens commonly — it’s just one-off, one in a million. It happened so fast we didn’t know what we hit or what happened — then we saw a whale in the distance behind us,” continued the skipper.
“At first we thought it could be debris from Cyclone Debbie, but there’s a round dent in the boat so we put two and two together.”
“We believe it’s breeched (sic) under the boat — normally you see them coming or they swim away from boats,” added Galea, who sustained a severe cut to the head.
The boat’s railings were bent as a result of the incident.
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A spokesperson for the Department of Environment and Heritage warned boat skippers to be on the look out for whales.
“EHP and the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service would remind boaties to be very cautious during the humpback migration — humpbacks are on the move day and night on their migration,” said the spokesman.
“These huge, unpredictable mammals may surface, slap their tails or leap out of the water unexpectedly around vessels.”
“Skippers need to keep a lookout at all times — even if skippers avoid cutting across the path of a whale or going within the approach limits, humpbacks may approach or nudge boats,” continued the spokesman.
“If a skipper becomes concerned about the safety of their vessel and passengers due to a whale’s behaviour, he/she should stop, slow down and/or steer away from the whale immediately.”