Brinkley Davies on free-diving with humpbacks (those songs!) and great whites (mystery!)…
You want to date this whale-diving, shark-loving vegan surfer-ess? Of course you do. Who isn’t captive to that strewn blond hair and those Paris fashion week black eyebrows! But, first. One thing. And it’s real important.
Don’t take her to Sea World.
This might be hard to believe but, unlike you and me, when 21-year-old Brinkley thinks of Sea World she doesn’t imagine smiling dolphins hamming it up for the kids or seals doing the craziest things with their flippers (and those salty kisses!) or Orcas and their super-cool tummy slides. Instead, she sees wretched animals torn from complex social units and condemned to the most miserable and lonely lives.
“It’s so heartbreaking to see the way they behave in the parks when you’ve seen them in the wild,” she says. “If all the parks closed tomorrow I’d be jumping for joy. My life goal would be complete.”
Anyway, I met Brinkley, who was named after the eighties super-model Christie Brinkley in case y’wondering, last July for a Stab magazine shoot that I entitled On Closer Inspection. And how close we inspected! Click here to see!
A few weeks ago she was strolling through Bondi, way out of her hometown of Moana in South Australia, but I recognised those eyebrows from a mile away, and we started talking about how she’d just come back from diving with humpback whales in Tonga. And before that, working on whale shark boat in Exmouth, Western Australia.
Brinkley spoke about the deep growls from the humpbacks that would reverberate through your body, literally shake you from the inside out, and how awesome, but awesome in its literal sense, it is to swim 100 feet down without a tank and just six pounds of weights and interact with animals some scientists believe are more intelligent than humans.
Every day Brink and her Hawaiian pal Natalie Parra, who’s on the same level of free diving as Brinkley, like four-minute static-breath hold good, would dive 80, 100 feet and just watch and listen. The pair got to know the different individuals. There were mums and their calves, sometimes with a male escort who’d be hanging around partly to protect but mostly to fuck; and singing whales that’d remain vertical underwater, heads down, tails up, singing their large hearts out.
There were close calls, of course. You can’t dive with leviathans and expect to it to be risk free. One lazy slap of a tail or a pec fin and you ain’t coming up. And Brink recalls watching one mom humpback suddenly flap its tail as its calf dived down from above. Brink doesn’t know if it was protecting its kid or it was excited to see it. Either way, it just missed.
And Brinkley laughs about the more comical aspects of free-diving such as when gravity disappears at 40-feet and you just… sink. Her pal Natalie has a GoPro clip of a whale and, there, Brinkley sails through the frame, downward.
Brinkley is five weeks away from finishing her Bachelor of Science in marine biology, a degree you can ramp up to honours with another year on campus or even a PHD if you wanna stick around uni for the rest of your youth, but Brink is going to hit the road. Or at least the ocean. She knows you don’t learn about whales and sharks by sitting in a classroom. Field studies. Yeah, that’s where it’s at.
Like at Exmouth while working on a whale shark boat. Operators are pretty quick to tell tourists there aren’t great whites or indeed any of the more dangerous makes but Brinkley saw ’em all, tigers, whites, bulls sharks, bronzes and reef sharks.
And you wanna know something? The tigers didn’t want to be bothered (they’re too busily lazily scavenging scraps), whites are aloof, bronze whalers are skittery as all hell, reef sharks are like yapping dogs and the smaller they are the more aggressive they appear to be, and bull sharks are placid unless aroused by blood or some kinda dying fish activity.
What’s next for the kid? She wants to swim with orcas, pods of pilot whales (hundreds at a time), she’s going to work on a great white dive boat in South Australia that doesn’t bait or chum to attract sharks, and therefore you see the animals in a normalised environment and not in the throes of attack, might move to Byron to dive with sharks off Julian Rocks, or maybe even Hawaii with her pal Natalie.
Makes those gals strutting around the bars in their dagger heels and with the cantilevered cans and fish pouts look kinda vapid, don’t it.
Brinkley made this clip below just for BeachGrit. The vocals are from the bull (guy humpback) and right at the end you’ll see a female charge the bull. Long story short. Bulls hang around ostensibly to protect the calf but their motive is mostly to fuck, as I mentioned earlier. And so he’ll hang at the bottom and get the kid to swim down to him so the mom follows and then… maybe… he’ll get some. But at the end the gal, furious, charges the horny bull for luring the kid away. Sista!
Swimming with Whales, Tonga from Brinkley Davies on Vimeo.