Friday, October 12, 2012

Appreciation (48) – Do whales sleep

Appreciation (48) – Do whales sleep

Torrey Orton

Oct.12, 2012

Do whales sleep, or dolphins?

Australia is a biologically weird place as I was reminded by spending a few days in Noosa, Queensland. Mostly on view are varieties of holidayus australianus, with next G genetic offshoots in tow…or sometimes more towing their elders, but… Among the passing late school hols multitude wandered purposefully and utterly unperturbedly the fabulous bush turkey. It really is a turkey family bird thing, but for its tail. This is a wonder in bird land, a paddle it seems to be rather than a tail as we know them. And the paddle tail gets bigger as they get older and if they are male, which you can somewhat tell from the bright yellow wattle hanging around their necks, set off somewhat from the scraggly bald head by a red leathery collar. Finally, that paddle can be fanned in the fashion of Nth American turkeys, guinea fowl, lyre birds and so on, and then returned to paddle shape when the courting is over for the moment.

They wander around the foot traffic looking for dropped edibles which though numerous are often passed by in favour of those in the brighter end of the bubble gum spectra – a marvel of colour, touch and taste as you can imagine if you're a graduate of the gum retention by public posting school of chewers.

Oh, and it seems whales sleep, sort of (see )…which wonder came to mind as we were padding the paths of Noosa National Park up the hill from the beach and around the point break. A few km's into the jaunt I saw in the distance to the southeast a spout-like puff blown out of sight quickly on the brisk prevailing breeze of the day, followed by some splashing that was running counter, both in height and direction, to the prevailing easterly wind driven white horses. We weren't the only ones attracted. Assisted in our focus on marina fauna by a pod (17 Jane counted) of dolphins searching the immediate cliff faced coastline for midday snacks, we kept looking to sea for a rerun of the puff and splash show.

More whale sightings occurred over the next 20 minutes while lunching under the sparse coverage of a couple of trees from our lunch seat of asparagus ferns and couch grass in the 45kph breeze blowing up the 20 meter cliff face. These sightings were almost on the horizon in the same configuration as the first without the spout fumes…too far to see while the slapping of tails and low breaching was clear. If whales sleep by floating on the surface, how do they do in wind driven white horses?


For variety, we also had our paths crossed at different points in the walk by three four-legged reptiles – a goanna, a blue tongue and a copper back (its look , not its moniker; can't find it in the guides) – and for continuity the ubiquitous bush turkeys scrabbled in the deeper groves of the rainforest side of the park. Paddles for tails. Really! See here for details -


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