Fresh Air Kids – Term 2 | Week 5

The Fresh Air Kids is a group of local families that want their children to spend time in the great outdoors, learning through playing in nature.

A community partnership with the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee, Fresh Air Kids aims to encourage local coastal kids to grow up observing the environment in more detail than even most adults do.

Date | 23.05.2017 – Point Roadknight

On one of the final days of autumn, we stretched our legs on the beach at Point Roadknight playing games and exploring the beach treasures.

I had brought a long rope with markers to indicate every few meters. As we pulled it out of the roll, we were able to investigate the size of the different animals that live in the ocean. There were stories from the group about close encounters with dolphins and seals, and when the rope was 3.5m long I told a story about my encounter with a large sea creature many years ago…

“When I was a boy about 12 years old, I was swimming at Moggs Creek on a still and calm summer day. All of a sudden a large dark shadow swam up close to us, and we all ran out of the water as fast as we could. The thing is, the animal making this shadow came out of the water too, slowly crawling onto the beach and lying there for us all to see…”

It turned out this animal was a Leopard Seal (Hydruga leptonyx), an Antarctic hunter of penguins and fish. Why it come ashore at Moggs Creek, we were about to find out…

“We watched the seal roll over and moan and groan, it clearly wasn’t feeling well at all. We didn’t know what to do for it. After a while, and as we were watching, it eventually let out a huge fart, and followed through with a heap of diarrhoea on the beach! And in that big mess was a whole heap of spines from a Spiny-globe Fish (Diodon nicthemerus)

Spiny-globe fish, puffed-up revealing spines. Image by: Mark Norman

So the seal had eaten something that gave it a terrible tummy ache, perhaps like humans the seal felt better after going to the toilet, because after that it jumped back in the ocean and swam off to Antarctica. Maybe it had learned its lesson to never eat those fish again!

At 12 metres we started to talk about whales, and stretching the rope all the way to 30m, to the largest animal to ever live – the blue whale. The kids skipped and jumped and hopped and ran the length of a blue whale many times.

This turned out to be quite fortuitous, as Chloe, one of the Fresh Air Mums ended up surfing next to a curious Southern-right Whale (Eubalaena australis) at Jan Juc a few days later.

Keep a lookout for these amazing creatures as they migrate along our coastline at this time of year. Although the migration pathways are still poorly known, it is thought that after the whales have been feeding further south in the Southern Ocean, Eubalaena australis swims past our coastline during the winter months towards their breeding grounds in the Great Australian Bight.

Until next time,

Possum Pete

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