Tragedy Strikes After Fishing Boat Capsized by Whale

A Baby Humpback Whale Plays Near the Surface in Blue Water
© Craig Lambert Photography/

Written by Jennifer Hollohan

Updated: October 14, 2023

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At the end of September, two men set out on what should have been a normal fishing trip. The two, aged 53 and 61, hopped in their fishing boat around 6 a.m. They took the approximately 15-foot (4.6 meter) vessel southeast of Sydney, Australia, to find good fishing waters. The men made it a little over 5 miles (9 km) from shore before they had a surprise encounter with a whale.

While no one is entirely sure what transpired, the whale capsized the fishing vessel and threw both men into the water. They spent the next 45 minutes awaiting rescue. When the Indian Maritime Rescue Service finally reached them, they pulled both men from Botany Bay and transported them to an area hospital. Unfortunately, the older gentleman passed away from his injuries.

Police believe that the whale breached either on or near the vessel. They believe that this encounter with a whale was a freak and tragic accident. Authorities have not indicated whether they know what whale species caused the fatal encounter. However, the investigation remains ongoing. 

What Whales Live Near Sydney?

There are over ten whale species that call the coast of Sydney home. They include Baird’s beaked whale, sperm whaleorcagray whale, southern right whale, pygmy sperm whale, minke whale, humpback whale, blue whale, Bryde’s whale, and more. 

That is in addition to the annual migration of southern right and humpback whales between May and November. Both groups follow the Sydney coastline as they move into the Pacific for winter. It is a sight to behold since an estimated 40,000 whales make the journey each year! Countless whale-watching charters allow visitors to have a safe encounter with a whale during this period.

Whale, Humpback Whale, Jumping, Animals Breaching, Sea Life

An estimated 40,000 whales make the journey to the Sydney coastline each year!


How Big Do Whales Get?

Since there are over species of whales, their size range varies greatly. The smallest whale is “only” 8.5 feet long. While that still sounds large, it is nothing compared to how big whales can get

Antarctic blue whales are the largest animals on Earth. They average close to 165 tons (330,000 pounds). And the largest blue whale ever recorded weighed an estimated (209 tons) 418,878 pounds. It may help to put these weights in perspective. The average fully-loaded school bus typically weighs between 12 and 15 tons. 

Humpback whales are one of the two primary species migrating near Sydney this time of year. They average 46 to 52 feet long and 40 tons (80,000 pounds). The other main species on their migratory path this fall is the southern right whale. These whales average 43 to 56 feet long and 88 tons (176,000 pounds). 

So, an encounter with a whale (even one of the smallest ones) can have a devastating effect.

blue whale

Blue whales are the largest animals on Earth.

©Andrew Sutton/

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About the Author

Jennifer Hollohan is a writer at A-Z Animals, where her primary focus is on gardening, mammals, and travel. Jennifer has over twenty years of writing experience. She holds a Master of Arts in Anthropology from the University of Colorado at Boulder, which she earned in 2005, and is a Herbalist. Jennifer lives in Colorado with her family. She loves hiking, admiring wildflowers, gardening, and making herbal tea.

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