Location: Southport, Queensland
Vessel: 37 ft Steber monohull MV Grinner
Crew: Darren Shringles (skipper)
A northward moving high over New South Wales maintained a ridge along the east coast of Queensland, bringing mainly stable conditions to the region. Light SW winds on leaving the Seaway, swinging around to SSE by mid morning and barely rating more than a ‘whisper’, with a rise in speed only when one of the inside rain squalls passed through to the north and then barely hitting 10 knots. Generally fine conditions, with cloud cover increasing when one of the many rain squalls passed through in a line approx 15 nautical miles offshore. Visibility, generally very good to excellent, maximum air temp 24° C, barometer 1025 hPa.
Generally calm seas all day on a gentle swell, with glassy conditions out wide. Sea surface temp at the Seaway 21.9° C quickly rising to 23.1° C across the Shelf and 23.7° C at the Shelf-Break. At the first drift at the ‘Rivieras’, the water was a green looking 23.7° C and the current was pushing the vessel northward, on heading ENE. At Jim’s Mountain, just 4.5 nautical miles away, the water became a ‘blue’ 24.7° C and pushing the vessel eastward, possible evidence of a small warm/cold eddy in the immediate region.
Left the Seaway at 0655 hrs and headed directly to the Riviera grounds and after crossing the Shelf-break at 0900 hrs reached our destination at 0930 hrs some 26 nautical miles ENE of the Southport Seaway. After drifting northeast for almost 1 ½ hours we ended up just south of Jim’s Mountain so steamed over to it, where we drifted NE for the next 1 ½ hours eventually ending up 30 nautical miles ENE of the Seaway. Headed for home at 1235 hrs, arriving back at the Seaway at 1540 hrs, duration of trip, 8 hrs 45 mins.
On leaving the Seaway, very few birds around with just a couple of Fluttering Shearwaters heading south the only ones of interest, followed by an Australasian Gannet. At 0725 hrs the only 2 trawlers of the morning loomed but even they only had a few Crested Terns and Silver Gulls milling around them. Just after crossing the Shelf-break at 0910 hrs a large dark shearwater crossed the bows labouring south in the very calm conditions, a rare bird for Southport, Sooty Shearwater. We had been towing a berley bag behind the vessel since before the 50 fathom line but to no avail there was no wind to carry the scent.
On reaching the first drift point at the Rivieras however it didn’t take the Wilson’s Storm-Petrels to arrive and in some numbers, with the first Black-bellied Storm-Petrel of the day soon after. That was about it for the next hour or so, just the two species of storm-petrel, then we headed over to Jim’s Mountain. Initially, it was the same here but the water was a full degree warmer and a rain squall to landward picked the wind up so finally, at 1145 hrs the first Providence Petrel arrived at the back of the vessel. By 1235 hrs still only a few more Black-bellied and Wilson’s Storm-Petrels had been added to the tally with a couple more Providence Petrels arriving just as we were leaving.
While we had been drifting we had overheard on the radio, two charter vessels bantering about whether the marlin would come to a vessel if an albatross was hanging around, these vessels were a fair bit closer to shore. There was no way of knowing if this was idle chatter or if indeed there was an albatross in the area. Halfway back across the Shelf I set up post on the bows of the boat on lookout for any returning Humpback Whales, when at 1515 hrs barely 4 nautical miles from the coast a large black and white bird sat on the sea surface directly in front of the vessel. There was barely enough breeze for the adult Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross to lift as it flew back past the vessel, landing just a few hundred metres away. For a couple of punters on board it was their very first albatross so we headed back over to the bird and enticed it over with some chum. After the photo session lasting several minutes we left the bird still chomping away as we headed back for the Seaway.
Wilson’s Storm-Petrel – 22 (5)
Black-bellied Storm-Petrel – 4 (1)
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross – 1
Sooty Shearwater – 1
Fluttering Shearwater – 2 (1)
Providence Petrel – 4 (2)
Australasian Gannet – 2 (1)
Little Tern – 1
Crested Tern – 39 (30)
Silver Gull – 25 (20)