Escorted by a pod of dolphins, the magnificent 44-metre HMB Endeavour made her grand entrance into Eden on Friday ahead of this weekend’s Eden Whale Festival.
The replica of Captain Cook’s 18th century exploratory vessel came slowly through Twofold Bay just after 10am, before coming alongside the breakwater wharf at Snug Cove at 11am.
Hundreds of Edenites turned out to welcome her, with Captain John Dikkenberg saying he was blown away by the level of interest the ship’s visit has generated.
“It’s very, very pleasing – we’ve been looking forward to this for some time and to see the town come out to welcome us is just fantastic,” Captain Dikkenberg said.
“There was quiet a strong southerly on Monday, so we decided to stay in Sydney overnight, but over the last four days we’ve had a fantastic run.
“We’ve got the ship open to visitors from 10am-4.30pm on both days this weekend, and we’d love to see some Edenites on board – it’s a great ship to see.”
Accompanying Captain Dikkenberg and the voyage crew was National Parks & Wildlife Service whale expert Geoff Ross.
Mr Ross led the national whale count during Endeavour’s four-day voyage from Sydney, and said it was a “magical experience” for all involved.
“I guess the most breathtaking part of the whole trip was this morning, when we were escorted down into Eden by a pod of small dolphins,” he said.
“There was a lot of bioluminescence in the water, so the dolphins were torpedoing through the sea.
“We could see a perfect outline of their whole body in the luminescence – it was just magic.”
Mr Ross and the crew sighted several whales and other sea creatures along the way, including a rare pygmy sperm whale.
“They’re very uncommon off the continental shelf, but his whale came up right beside the vessel so we got a perfect identification of it,” he said.
“I’ve never seen a live one at sea – I’ve seen many carcasses that have washed up on the shore, but never a live one at sea, so it was very special.
“The other exciting thing is that we got to see three sperm whales – two adults and a calf, which in itself is very exciting, as well as a number of humpback whales.”
Mr Ross said it is an experience the crew will never forget.
Many of those on board were sailing a square-rigged vessel for the first time, but the process was a smooth one.
“You become part of the ship, and you’re there to help with whatever needs to be done.
“The crew here are so professional, and when you’re not working, you’re up on deck looking for whales, sea birds and all the other sea creatures that are out there.
“There are a lot of people who were interested in sea life, but who weren’t sailors, and a lot of sailors who weren’t that interested in sea life.
“Now everyone’s got that experience of the two of them together, and everyone’s become a lover of both.
“That was John’s masterstroke really, bringing the two together.”
One of the hundreds who turned out to welcome the Endeavour was UK resident Jill Balchin.
She will board the ship for the return leg to Sydney, as she celebrates her 73rd birthday.
“I’m so looking forward to going on her, but I just hope it’s quite a smooth sea,” she laughed.
“I’m in a bunk – my elder grandson booked me this trip, to come to Australia and sail the Endeavour for my 73rd birthday.
“I first saw the Endeavour in 1997, which was the first time she came back to the UK.”
HMB Endeavour is open to the public from 10am-4pm at Snug Cove this weekend.
Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for children and concessions, or $25 for families (2 adults + 3 children).
Paying crew who want to join the ship as it heads home from Eden are encouraged to visit http://www.anmm.gov.au/ to apply.