Salty Dogs to Damsels in Distress

Today was one of those days when you just step back from the ocean and let nature take its course. As rain and near thirty knot winds hailed the reef today, we decided it may be time to pack up the land cruiser and head up the coast for a short visit to the historical town of Cooktown.

For about three months now, I’ve been corresponding with fishing charters running out of the Cooktown area in an effort to gain a better knowledge on what animals might be moving through that region. In our last visit to the Great Barrier Reef we had met a number of individuals who had stated seeing animals moving as far north as Lizard Island (see map below), which came as a bit of a surprise to the team as even Port Douglas seems beyond what the average Humpback is willing to swim.

Why would animals be moving that far north, and who were these animals?

The answers seemed to lie with the good men and women of the Cooktown region fishing charters, so up the coast we went!

Granted every bit of Australia is beautiful, every bit of this country is as rough and rugged as it gets. The landscape, the reef, the highways, the lifestyle, the men who came to our rescue when we broke down on the side of the road today (yup)… just beautiful.

For about three hours Amanda and I had trecked north in our four wheel drive dominating 280 kilometers of dirt road, creek beds, and tremendously steep inclines. With nothing but beautiful scenery and a safe arrival into Cooktown on our minds we were oblivious to the fact that pulling the car over onto a scenic lookout might be the end of our joyride north (at least temporarily).

Just 25 kilometers outside of Cooktown our car battery was dead, and not the “turn the engine and still see lights on the dashboard” kind of dead, nope… just dead. For about three minutes we sat there trying to figure out just how this could’ve happened (one minute running, next completely dead) when to the rescue came those beautiful Aussie blokes (some of you may remember a similar episode from last year).

Just as tried and true as ever those Aussie blokes had us back on the road in no time, new battery and all! Albeit a bit delayed, our arrival into Cooktown was a success nonetheless. For the next hour (Cooktown is pretty small) we poked around and talked to locals about the area, and about what they might be seeing out on the reef. Sure enough, just as the animals weren’t being seen in numbers quite as expected out of Port Douglas nor were they this far north.

Truth of the matter is that each year the migratory flow of humpbacks can shift one way or the other. They can be early, they can show up to an area late, or even not bother to migrate as far north or south as may have been predicted. There are a number of factors within the South Pacific humpback’s migration that are little understood, but as Greg told me just the other day “not seeing whales is valuable data as well.”

So, back on the water tomorrow. Humpback sightings or not this year, we will figure these migratory patterns out!


P.S – For more info on Cooktown’s history visit

Annie Macie


Beth Salles (visitor) says:

what no pictures of the cute blokes!!!! disappointed Annie. LOL