Tasmania & New Zealand 2014 travel blog

Dusky dolphins next to the boat

Larry feeding ram

Sheep shearing

Sperm whale spouting

Whale diving

Seal in the water

This morning we went on a whale watch! This area has a population of male sperm whales year round. The “continental shelf” (?) drops off pretty close to the coast here and sperm whales need deep water. Apparently there is a good food supply for them here, but it is too cold for the females, who have less blubber. Anyway, that is what we were told.

The whales are spread far apart, too, and come up for air for about 10 minutes, then dive for 40-50 minutes. This makes them a little hard to watch. Fortunately, with modern technology (hydrophones), they can listen for them and track them when they are on the bottom. When they stop clicking, they are probably coming up.

So we had at least 2 boats and one plane tracking one sperm whale and waiting for it to surface. Which it eventually did. Sperm whales are big—the largest toothed whales, up to about 60 feet long, which is as long as the boat we were in. But they don’t float very far out of the water, so you can just see a portion of their backs, and the spray when they breathe. But we did get photos of the tail when it dove.

Then we went closer to shore to see rare Hector’s dolphins, the smallest toothed whales, and dusky dolphins. There were a LOT of dusky dolphins—probably over a hundred of them, and they swam around the boat, jumped and did flips. Sometimes they came out of the water and did tail stands, then flopped down. Other times they leapt out and flipped their tails completely over their heads. They were lots of fun to watch. There were some people in kayaks among the dolphins; that would have been cool to do!

The sun came out and it was actually getting warm on the boat. After the dolphins, we went over to a reef and watched NZ fur seals lying on the rocks and swimming in the water, before heading back to dock. We got off the boat and were waiting for the bus to take us from the marina back to the office in town where we started. But when it got there with the next boatload of passengers, the wind had picked up and they decided it was not safe to go out anymore. So that load of passengers had to be taken back (and given refunds) before they could come back and get us. As the wind picked up, and the clouds closed in, it got distinctly chilly. So we were very lucky—if we had scheduled for the afternoon, we would not have gone out!

Once we got back to our campervan, we headed out toward the point. We stopped at a BBQ seafood trailer on the beach and got seafood chowder (Larry) and garlic scallops with rice and salad (Shirley). Both were good. We ate in the van, because it was uncomfortable being out in the chilly wind.

Just down the road from the seafood place was The Point sheep shearing show at 4 pm. We got there about 30 minutes early, and the owner let us into the shed early to look around and wait. He had samples of wool from 4 different kinds of sheep, and a chart describing about 20 different breeds. At 4 pm, a couple from the UK arrived, as did a couple of Asian girls, only one of whom spoke English. I gathered the latter were staying at the B&B at the sheep farm.

The farmer and his dogs brought in 3 sheep, and first he showed us his ram “Ram-man.” We each got a chance to hand feed the ram and take photos. The farmer also showed us one black (really only dark grey) sheep—apparently it is a recessive gene, and doesn’t happen often unless you breed two black sheep together.

Then he brought in a ewe and showed us how to shear it. It took him about 4 minutes, because he was showing us how to do it. In a contest, a good shearer can do it in about 37 seconds. We got to feel the sheep after shearing, and you could feel the lanolin. Commercial lanolin is pressed out of merino wool, which has more than other types.

After we left there, we fueled up and picked up a few more groceries, then headed north about 25-30 km to a campground at Waipapa Bay. We have power, but no internet. There are supposedly seals on the rocks across the highway. If the weather is conducive in the morning we may check them out before heading for the ferry. Tonight is our last night on the South Island (assuming the weather permits the ferry crossing). It is chilly and windy, but not raining. Bye, bye South Island. ☹

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