Marine Rescue boat hit by whale off Stradbroke, two injured

First casualty of the whale season
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With the whale watching season just started, a Volunteer Marine Rescue boat has been severely damaged by collision with a whale off North Stradbroke Island near Brisbane this week, and fears are held for the whale involved.

The collision tore apart one of the catamaran's hulls, injuring two crew members.


Damage to rescue vessel - photo by Tony Hawkins
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Tony Hawkins, Volunteer Marine Rescue vice president, told The Brisbane Times that the 10-metre catamaran was en route to help another vessel off Stradbroke Island’s Point Lookout when it collided with the whale about two nautical miles off shore shortly after 6pm.

‘‘As [the boat] came off a wave the whale came up underneath at the same time and impacted the bow of the boat,’’ Mr Hawkins said. ‘‘The bow of the boat is gone. There is nothing there.'

Two of the five people on board were injured in the crash, with one suffering a dislocated shoulder and the other minor facial injuries. They were taken to Redland Hospital for treatment.

Mr Hawkins said he was amazed at the extent of the damage to the boat, which he estimated would cost $70,000 to repair. ‘‘I’ve been involved in marine rescue for nearly 30 odd years and I’ve never seen a bow disappear,’’ he said.

The Manly Coast Guard was called in to tow the damaged catamaran back to its base at Raby Bay and transfer its injured crew members to another marine rescue vessel.

Although the extent of the whale’s injuries is not known, Mr Hawkins said he feared the worst. ‘‘I don’t think the whale was seen ... but unfortunately I believe regrettably there was significant damage done to the whale,’’ he said.

Each year up to 10,000 whales pass Stradbroke Island between June and the end of October as part of their annual migration north to warmer waters.

Paul Hodda, from the Australian Whale Conservation Society, said it was likely the whale was injured. 'It depends upon the angle of the impact and the speed the vessel is travelling,' he told 612 ABC radio. 'Because the whales come up to breathe at the surface and what's exposed is their head, their blowhole and their spine, they're going to have some sort of an injury. 'It also depends if they just get impacted by the vessel and whether the propeller goes across it.'