The Island Explorer and Big Duck crews celebrate at Granite Island

Kangaroo Island Dolphin Watch volunteers celebrated the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s 5th National Whale Day in style with an adventurous trek to Victor Harbor for a “Whale Encounter” on Saturday 9th June. In a parodied reenactment of Flinder’s and Baudin’s meeting, they rendezvoused under the Waitpinga Cliffs with members of the “Friends of the SA Whale Centre” aboard Dan Irvine’s “Big Duck”. Also aboard the Victor Harbor Dolphin Watch boat was Dr Mike Bossley AM of KI Dolphin Watch project partners the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, and photojournalist Anthony Caggiano of the Victor Harbor Times.The rendezvous site had special significance given the 2012 theme of “Watch Out! Whales About!” as it gave the combined Dolphin Watch crews the opportunity to acknowledge conservationist Elizabeth Steele-Collins who was waving a flag on her clifftop eyrie, with respect to her outstanding efforts of Cetacean conservation and protection. Elizabeth has been heavily involved in recent successful prosecutions of people interfering with whales, and as awareness grows, so does the deterrent value of the fines rendered.

Following the exciting meeting the boats travelled to Encounter Bay seeking whales and enjoyed an enthralling encounter with 30 – 40 Oceanic Common Dolphins busy feeding out from the Bluff. These speedy, small dolphins joined in the celebrations with a high powered display including acrobatic jumps as they sought their elusive prey. In a boost for the avid bird watchers on board, they were joined in the pursuit by Giant Petrels, Australasian Gannets, Cormorants and Pacific Gulls. The crews then lunched at the Granite Island Café where a delicious meal was provided by Dolphin Watch supporter Dayna Crowe and staff. In a brief address Kangaroo Island Dolphin Watch Coordinator Tony Bartram acknowledged special guests Mike Bossley who is world renowned for his long term research with dolphins in the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary, Elizabeth Steele-Collins, Victor Harbor Dolphin Watch Manager Nedra Haines and the outstanding efforts of KI Marine Adventures skipper Andrew Neighbour for 6 ½ years and Dan Irvine for over a year – the backbone of Dolphin Watch efforts. KI Dolphin Watch mentor Mike was duly acknowledged for developing the original Dolphin Watch project on Kangaroo Island which has led to the project being established in Victor Harbor by KI Dolphin Watch in 2011.
In a remarkable coincidence the celebrations were sandwiched between World Oceans Day June 8th and Volunteers Day June 11th providing an opportunity to acknowledge the outstanding efforts of all the students and volunteers. The regional nature of our collaborative research effort was highlighted, with the hope of possibly establishing dolphin connectivity between sites, as well as the common threat we face with respect to oil and gas exploration mooted off Kangaroo Island’s coast, of considerable concern to both communities.
This intrepid undertaking which resulted in the volunteers from KI logging 226 kilometres at sea, was an outstanding success. Local dolphins escorted the “Island Explorer” from Christmas Cove at 8.30am and welcomed them home at 5pm, and for thrilling “icing on the cake” on the return journey, two Southern Right Whales were observed, for an extended period off Tunkalilla on the Fleurieu Peninsula – the first of many we hope for the season. Their slow gentle movement emphasized their vulnerability to all observers and underpinned the theme – “Watch Out! Whales About!”