Whale stranded in Australian river full of crocodiles

Humpback whale in open sea, photo by Steve Halama on Unsplash
Humpback whale in open sea, photo by Steve Halama on Unsplash

Australia’s northern tropical rivers are known for being full of crocodiles. Seeing three migrating humpback whales in those waters has baffled marine scientists, who assume they simply took a wrong turn and got stuck.

Marine ecologist Jason Fowler discovered the whales on a fishing trip with friends two weeks ago. They were sailing in the East Alligator River when he saw a whale. “I called out to my crewmates, ‘dolphin!’, but at the back of my mind, I was thinking, ‘that’s not a dolphin, that’s huge’,” Fowler said.

“I knew they were humpbacks (but) I could not convince myself it was actually a whale so far up a tropical muddy river that was full of crocodiles.”

Humpbacks like to be in open sea at least 30 meters (10 feet) deep, but they appeared stuck in a 15 meter (5 feet) ‘hole’ in a river that was otherwise 5-6 meters, Fowler said.

One whale is still stuck
In a Facebook post, Parks Australia said that it looked like two of the whales had made their way out of the river and just one was left. Experts are deciding whether to intervene.

“The last thing we want is a collision between a boat and whale in waters where crocodiles are prevalent and visibility underwater is zero,” the post said. “The whale is not in distress at the moment and it is not an emergency situation. The best-case scenario is for the whale to make its way back out to sea.”

Fowler says it’s unlikely the whales would be attacked by crocodiles due to their size.


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