What with killer whales getting beached on Fraser Island and surfers getting tossed around by a southern right whale at Bondi Beach, whale season has arrived in Australia with a bang.

A pod of around 11 orcas became stranded on Fraser Island off the east coast of Queensland last week. After rescue efforts failed to save three of the pod, including a mother and her calf, eventually the remaining killer whales were returned to deeper waters.

From AAP:

Rescuers initially feared the pod would be reluctant to leave the area and would have difficulty negotiating the numerous sand bars and obstacles in the area to make it to safety.

But a Sea World spokeswoman on Thursday confirmed the pod made its way into open waters overnight.

Orcas. Pic: Miles Ritter (Flickr CC)

I wouldn’t be surprised if Sea World just said that so they could capture and imprison the orcas by cover of night. Don’t sue me, Sea World; I’m being facetious (sort of).

Before you get spooked about having both orcas and great whites in popular surfing and swimming waters, the presence of the former probably reduces the latter, as killer whales have been known to hunt and eat great whites. See this ABC News report for evidence.

Still, no one in their right mind wants to be surfing with killer whales, nor any other whale for that matter, as one surfer learned while riding the waves at world-famous Bondi Beach. Surfer and medical doctor Bishan Rajapakse suddenly spotted the massive cetacean swimming right beside him.

He is quoted in London’s Evening Standard:

I just remember this magnificent whale slowly coming to the right of me and coming for another look. I certainly thought it was like a little minibus size. I’ve seen a few whales in Bondi before, you know, just walking, but this was the biggest I’ve seen. We were so close to it. It looked like an alien to us, you know, like one of those alien spacecraft or something. It was amazing.

The 50-ton southern right whale approached a group of 20 surfers with its calf and flicked its giant tail, knocking two of them off their boards and one of them (Rajapakse) unconscious.

A southern right whale flicking its tail in South Australia. Pic: robdownunder (Flickr CC)

Australians are fascinated with their whales and they aren’t keen to let any harm come to them. Australia recently appealed to the International Court of Justice in The Hague to put an end to Japan’s scientific whaling program.

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

Australia respectfully requests the court to make orders to bring JARPA II to an end, because the large scale killing of whales is commercial, and wholly outside what is permitted in article eight of the convention.

–Australian Attorney General Mark Dreyfus

For Australians, whales are clearly for saving, gawking at and getting tail-flicked by – not for killing.