Whales, Wildlife & Wilderness Pam & Wayne Osborn
An Accidental Obsession
To many of us who grew up during the whaling holocaust, whales were something you saw in nature documentaries but rarely encountered first hand. By 1963 humpbacks were critically endangered and hunting was outlawed. In Western Australia we persevered in killing sperm whales for another 15 years despite the industry being uneconomic. The last sperm whale (a female) was harpooned on 20 November 1978 and the Cheynes Beach Whaling Station at Albany closed.
Our first close contact with whales was when we moved to Perth in 2001. We started sailing the coastline and encountered the austral winter humpback migration. It was nice and also somewhat interesting to find that at least some whale populations were recovering. We thought well, they are big, there is not much visible from the surface and having seen one whale, you have seen them all.
It was a bad mistake. We hadn't figured that our yacht would often be surrounded by curious whales who appeared to have either forgiven or forgotten we used to throw grenade tipped harpoons at them. The engagement and eye contact with these sentient mammals was beguiling.
The second mistake was trying to go diving in Exmouth. Humpbacks distracted us with their aerial acrobatics on our way to the dive sites and whilst underwater, their siren calls and plaintive song choruses were constant company. The slippery slide to obsession was complete.
We have visited the Azores on five occasions to dive with the resident sperm whale population. Each year since 2006 we have travelled to Exmouth Gulf and Ningaloo to photograph the humpback migration. In 2013 we were fortunate to join Curt and Micheline Jenner on their research vessel WhaleSong to photograph the dwarf minke whales on Australia's remote Ribbon Reefs.
We hope you enjoy these images. It is a wonderful privilege to work with these charismatic intelligent mammals.
Breaching humpback whale, Exmouth Gulf, Western Australia