Navy ship on maiden voyage to spot:
As the rays of the sun were shining on the splendid sea surface in
Galle the Sri Lanka Navy base Dhakshina was receiving some visitors at
its pier. Fast Personnel Career A-543 which was used to transport
service personnel by sea during the humanitarian operation docked at the
Pier with a new look was waiting to receive those visitors.
This time it was not the Forces personnel who were awaiting to board
the ship but a special set of invitees from the tourism industry,
hoteliers, travel agencies and the media who were ready to board to
launch this new operation.
The Captain of the ship Commander Miranda along with the ship's crew
were waiting to set sail once the invitees boarded along with the Navy
Commander Vice Admiral Somathilaka Dissanayake to launch this second
nautical enterprise by the Navy - whale watching.
Everybody, on board the ship were eager to start their voyage to see
the whales, the biggest animal on earth.
The ship slowly moved into the deep sea off Galle after sailing some
two nautical miles from the Galle harbour and started its voyage towards
Mirissa in the South of Galle.
All were free, either to remain seated or to move into the upper deck
or side decks as the ship had the capacity to accommodate 300 people at
once with 24 seat VIP deck unlike the small craft used by other whale
The Southern Naval Commander Rear Admiral Lakshman Ilangakoon, in his
presentation on board the ship to the invitees said that Mirissa was one
of the best places in the world for whale watching.
"Mirissa is apparently the best destination in the world to see
whales as it has very deep depth that is very close to the land. Whales
prefer more than one kilometre depth and in Dondra that one kilometer
depth is very close to the shore", Rear Admiral Ilangakoon added.
To reach Mirissa you have to sail 20 nautical miles from Galle and it
is roughly about a one hour journey in the calm sea as the ship was
sailing at a speed of 25 nautical miles per hour.
Whales breaking the surface
Navy Commander Vice Admiral
Somathilaka Dissanayake, Galle MP Manusha Nanayakkara and
Galle Mayor Methsiri de Silva on board A-543
Everybody on board the ship including Navy Commander Vice Admiral
Somathilaka Dissanayaka, Galle District MP Manusha Nanayakkara, Galle
Mayor Methsiri de Silva took that time to have a snack on the upper deck
whilst journalists were pouring numerous questions at them.
Except for the bigger ships passing your way and the shore line in
the southern tip of the country, there is little you can see within the
first hour but after reaching deep sea, some 10 nautical miles off
Mirissa you have to be very vigilant if you really want to see the
biggest mammal on earth.
All were silent and watching very carefully to locate whales but it
was a very difficult task when the sea surface is not so calm.
According to Anoma Alagiyawadu a naturalist working with the tourism
industry who was on board the ship said that in Mirissa people can watch
blue whale and the sperm whale together.
If you have not studied the animal very well and about their body
features you cannot differentiate the blue whale from the sperm whale.
Spray of a whale
The sea around Sri Lanka is a haven for whales as it is located in
the mid of their migrating channel from the Somalian sea area to Bay of
Bengal at different periods in the year.
It was around 9 am in the morning and everybody was keen to locate
whales keeping their eyes wide open to grab the opportunity whilst many
other small craft with tourists on board were hovering in the sea with
the same intention.
"There, there!", somebody was pointing and shouting and all on deck
were looking at the sea. Someone has seen a spray of a whale, the first
sign to identify a location where whales are roaming about. Whales used
to surface and spout a spray of water and take a fresh supply of air to
But very rarely the whales appear on the surface of the sea and it
requires a very calm sea to very clearly see the whales on the surface.
"This is something akin to combing the entire Yala Park to see wild
elephants", somebody on the deck was saying.
The frequent sprays visible on the sea indicated that the whales were
there and a part of their body and fins were visible. So it was an
exercise of patience for anybody to engage in and the more patient you
are the bigger the chances of spotting the largest mammal on earth
The photographers were keen on capturing the appearance of a whale
but the relatively disturbed waters did not give them a chance during
the maiden voyage of the Navy ship A-543 on whale watching.
Watching for whales on
Navy Commander Vice Admiral Somathilaka Dissanayaka was very keen on
popularising the whale watching enterprise among the locals and
foreigners similar to the Jet Liner ship which had become the most
sought venue to host parties and private functions.
"We are ready to carry out this new venture of whale watching for the
benefit of the whale watching enthusiasts and popularise it among the
people and provide them a safer whale watching journey", the Navy
Commander said whilst concluding the voyage.
The Navy expects to run this service four days a week from Dhakshina
Naval Base in Galle till April and later shift the venue to Trincomalee
and Kalpitiya which are also famed for whale watching.
"The venue of the operation will be changed according to monsoonal
patterns and sea conditions enabling the whale watching enthusiasts from
any part of the country to have this opportunity", he added.