Australia’s northern tropical rivers are reknowned for being crocodile-infested, so the appearance of migrating humpback whales in one waterway has baffled marine scientists, who assume they simply took a wrong turn and got stuck.
Marine ecologist Jason Fowler discovered three whales on a fishing trip with friends two weeks ago.
He and five friends were sailing in the East Alligator River about 26km inland in Kakadu National Park in the country’s remote north, when he saw a plume of water from the muddy river.
“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,” he said.
Humpbacks like to be in open sea at least 30m deep, but they appeared stuck in a 15m “hole” in a river that was otherwise 5m to 6m deep, Fowler said, adding that it was the first known case of whales in the tropical inland habitat.
In a Facebook post, Parks Australia said it appeared that some of the whales had since made their way out of the river and just one was left.
It had put an exclusion zone around the area as experts decided 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,” Parks Australia said.
Fowler thought it unlikely that the whales would be attacked by crocodiles due to their size.
“We would hope they would find their way out to sea again, but you don’t really know what’s going to happen in this situation,” he said. “The big question in my mind is: What happens at night? What happens when they want to rest and take it easy knowing that they’re flanked by these big crocodiles?”
Australian scientists have raised questions over the efficacy of the AstraZeneca and University of Oxford COVID-19 vaccine in establishing herd immunity, calling for a pause on its widespread rollout as the country recorded one new case of the virus yesterday. Opposition to the vaccine casts a cloud over Australia’s immunization plans, with 53 million doses of the AstraZeneca jab already on hand. “The question is really whether it is able to provide herd immunity. We are playing a long game here. We don’t know how long that will take,” Australian and New Zealand Society for Immunology president Stephen Turner said. Turner added
A racing pigeon has survived an extraordinary 13,000km Pacific Ocean crossing from the US to find a new home in Australia. Now authorities consider the bird a quarantine risk and plan to kill it. Kevin Celli-Bird yesterday said he discovered that the exhausted bird that arrived in his Melbourne backyard on Dec. 26 last year had disappeared from a race in the US state of Oregon on Oct. 29. Experts suspect the pigeon that Celli-Bird has named Joe — after US president-elect Joe Biden — hitched a ride on a cargo ship to cross the Pacific. Joe’s feat has attracted the attention
A persistent blizzard on Saturday blanketed large parts of Spain with an unusual amount of snow, killing at least four people and leaving thousands trapped in vehicles or at train stations and airports that suspended all services. The national weather agency reported that as of 7am, the snowfall in Madrid reached a level unseen in a half-century. More than 50cm of snow fell in the Spanish capital, the weather agency AEMET said. The bodies of a man and woman were recovered by the Andalucia region emergency service after their car was washed away by a flooded river near the town of Fuengirola.
China has recorded the biggest daily jump in COVID-19 cases in more than five months, despite four cities in lockdown, increased testing and other measures aimed at preventing another wave of infections in the world’s second-biggest economy. Most of the new infections were reported near the capital, Beijing, but a province in northeast China also saw a rise in new cases, official data showed yesterday, amid a resurgence that has seen more than 28 million people under home quarantine. The Chinese National Health Commission said in a statement that a total of 115 new confirmed cases were reported in the country, compared