There have been plenty of "Wow!" moments for marine mammal enthusiasts this season in Monterey Bay, thanks to an abundance of voracious and active humpback whales off the Central California coast.
But what occurred in front of passengers aboard a Sanctuary Cruises boat Monday has to rank beyond a mere "Wow!" moment. They watched in awe as a large humpback breached so closely–only yards away–that it caused their boat to pitch.
"It definitely got rocked," photographer Jodi Frediani, who on Wednesday provided the images that accompany this post, said of the close call.
Frediani, who was aboard the Point Sur Clipper out of Monterey Bay Whale Watch, could not say whether any of the passengers on the other boat got drenched, but recalled seeing nothing but open mouths after the 30-ton whale splashed down.
She assured that this was not a case of either boat being too close to the whale, but a case of the whale approaching both boats and surprising everyone by breaching directly between them.
"It was coming toward us, pointed right at us, and then it shifted direction before it breached right between us," said Frediani, adding that she was shooting with a zoom lens and that the Point Sur Clipper was considerably farther from the whale than the Sanctuary Cruises boat.
Humpback whales have spent the past several months feeding in Monterey Bay, and breaches are fairly common. But this was a special whale, as far as the passengers and crews were concerned, because it was extremely active.
Frediani said it breached 60 times in the span of an hour, and also tail-lobbed and slapped the water with its pectoral fins.
“We first saw it at 12:06 and at 1:06 it was still breaching," the photographer said. "I was getting tired just trying to follow it with my camera.
Frediani said that because the whale had changed direction, as it approached the boats, she missed the very beginning of the breach in her sequence.
But she did not miss much.
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