Hi All, the Weather Bureau announced a strong wind warning late on Friday the 3rd for south east coastal Queensland waters. Based on our local knowledge and what we believed would happen during the next day, the skipper and myself decided to go ahead with the trip out of Southport. We hadn’t been out since April, so stuff it!
Vessel: 37ft monohull M.V. Grinner
Skipper: Craig (Grinner) Newton
Pax: Paul Walbridge (organiser & leader), Dave Stewart, Rebecca Ryan, Peter Ryan, Owen Prouse, Brian Willey, Heyn De Kocq, Rod Gardner, Rob Morris, Alex Ferguson, Andy Jensen, Greg Anderson, Inger Van Dyke, Richard Baxter.
A cold front was approaching south east Queensland which was supposed to bring with it gusting 25-30 knot W-SW winds but on leaving the Seaway, winds initially from the NW at 10-15 knots, rising to 20 knots on occasion in open waters, turning more westerly. A virtual cloudless day with excellent visibility, maximum air temp. 20°C, barometer 1016 hPa.
On leaving the Seaway, fairly flat seas on .5 metre swell, which gradually built up on approaching more open waters and by the widest point had reached 1.5 metre seas on up to 2 metre + swell. Current at widest point just 1.5 knots N-S. Sea surface temps. 18.7°C inshore, to 21.0°C at the Shelfbreak and 22.5°C at the widest point, in Slope waters.
Left the Seaway at 0710 hrs and travelled out towards the Shelfbreak, stopping on just a couple of occasions, reached the Shelfbreak at 0950 hrs and the final drift point at approx. 1045 hrs about 52 kilometres ENE of the Southport Seaway. Drifted ESE at 1.5 knots until 1325 hrs when headed for home. Arrived back at the Seaway at 1700 hrs, total duration of trip 9hrs 50 mins.
On leaving the Seaway, no trawler or charter boat activity, just a few small boats so very little bird activity save for a few Australasian Gannets, Crested Terns and Silver Gulls. Two separate pods of Humpback Whales were sighted a few kilometres offshore, one whale in particular putting on quite a display and photos taken. Nothing much else traversing the Shelf, just some Hutton Shearwaters and one Fluttering Shearwater plus a couple of Gannets.
Just after crossing the Shelf break things started to appear including the first Providence Petrels, the first Yellow-nosed Albatross of the day and a pod of approx. 100 Melon-headed Whales, always a welcome winter sighting up here. After pulling alongside the Melon-heads for photos for a few minutes we headed for our drift point at the ‘Rivieras’, a system of ridges and canyons, well known to fishermen. Providence Petrels began to appear immediately along with the first Black-bellied Storm Petrel & the first juv. Northern Giant Petrel cruised in, laying claim to the berley bag floating astern.
At this point I witnessed one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen in the ocean, I thought Mahi Mahi were stunning looking fish but this monster left them for dead!! Just astern of the vessel and just under the surface a 2.5 metre apparition appeared, pale shiny variegated green with amazing vertical bands of fluorescent purple. It was a massive Striped Marlin, unreal! I didn’t have my polarising filter on, so the photo opportunity was lost.
Numbers of Providence Petrels were noted coming in plus more Black-bellied Storm Petrels and Wilson’s Storm Petrels plus the lone Cape Petrel for the day. Then the real surprise packet for the day arrived in the shape of Southports’ first ever July Tahiti Petrel, it seemed surreal watching this predominately summer bird cruising past a Northern Giant Petrel and Yellow-nosed Albatross. Tahiti Petrels have now been recorded in all 12 months of the year off Southport. Just as we turned around for home, heading back up the slick, 3 Yellow-nosed Albatrosses appeared along with a slightly mottled, older, Northern Giant Petrel.
Cruising back toward the Shelf, another juvenile Northern Giant Petrel approached the vessel from astern and sometime later when well back into Shelf waters two more Yellow-nosed Albatrosses appeared along with a juv. Black-browed Albatross. Approaching the Seaway, just a few more Gannets were added to the score on what was for most, a great day birding out in the southern Coral Sea in winter.
Wilson’s Storm Petrel – 5 (2)
Black-bellied Storm Petrel – 4 (2)
Black-browed Albatross – 1
Yellow-nosed Albatross – 7 (3)
Northern Giant Petrel – 3 (1)
Cape Petrel – 1
Fluttering Shearwater – 2 (1)
Hutton’s Shearwater – 5 (2)
Tahiti Petrel – 1
Providence Petrel – 96 (30)
Australasian Gannet – 23 (4)
Pied Cormorant – 1
Crested Tern – 5 (3)
Silver Gull – 7 (4)
Humpback Whale – 4
Melon-headed Whale – 100+
Other Marine Life:
Striped Marlin – 1