Nick Carroll On: It's All Happening Again – Another Dead Whale Buried
COASTALWATCH | ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS
Video & Photos by Glen Bowden
Words by Nick Carroll
Sure enough, yet another surf community has to worry about a dead whale and a council
So yeah, this time it’s the Sunny Coast. Or more precisely, Wurtulla, where building easterly winds and swell brought in a whale carcass over the weekend.
The whale — declared a “calf” by some media, though it’s since been estimated at between 15 and 25 years of age — may have been dead for about two days. It had been heavily preyed upon by large sharks on its way to shore.
“Most people thought it was an upturned boat,” says Glen Bowden, a professional photographer who got a call from a friend as the carcass approached the beach.
A Sunshine Coast Regional Council worker told Glen he thought the whale wouldn’t be buried. But sure enough, by early afternoon a digger was at work in the shallow dune behind the beach.
Nearby club Windansea Boardriders swiftly launched a petition demanding an exhumation of the carcass. Windansea’s Terry Landsberg told us they were “very concerned, especially with the position of the whale … it’s only a metre under the sand. Dogs will be digging it up by the end of the week.”
Terry had had contact with the council, who told him they’d been advised to carry out the burial by Queensland’s Department of Environment and Heritage. The corresponding NSW department was responsible for the whale burial south of South Wall Ballina last week. In NSW they later claimed it was just a “holding” burial and they’d planned to exhume it and remove it from the beach environment as soon as possible, but Terry told us he’d had no such word yet from the Queensland department, nor from the Council.
“We’ve been in contact with Wayne Hudson from Port Macquarie” regarding their response to a similar situation a few weeks back, Terry says. The current burial site is also directly seaward of a major land development that’s currently in progress; Terry says information about the burial and its potential as sharkbait has been passed on to stakeholders in the development. “They might not like the idea.”
The Port Macquarie crew had to apply for grants to cover the costs of their exhumation. Windansea plans to let the petition run for two or three days before taking any further action, but as Terry told us: “It’s up to guys like ourselves to chase this stuff, even though we’ve got jobs and families — do we have to go around chasing money to get this sort of thing done?”
Yeah, we suspect that until various government departments begin catching up with the new reality of Australia’s east coast biomass, it is going to be up to us surfers.
Meanwhile, in eastern Vicco, locals in and near Kilcunda on the Mornington Peninsula are still a bit rattled after a large whale avoided a similar burial by simply being washed back offshore.
“I think everyone’s really concerned,” Dave Wingfield, a Kilcunda schoolteacher and surfer, told CW. He says the community was “up in arms” after the authorities declared their intention of burying the carcass in the sand. “The Shire (council) was inundated with calls and emails, that’s what they told us anyway.”
The nine-metre humpback was in a difficult position — burying it would have meant getting machinery across a small river — so the authorities were stymied. Then a couple of big swells back to back took the carcass back out. Dave says the last time he saw it was a week ago, floating several hundred metres offshore, before it eventually disappeared.
He’s been living in Kilcunda for 25 years and hadn’t seen a carcass before. “I don’t know, maybe it’s going to become more common now.”
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