A humpback whale surprised a kayaker and his friend off the coast of California on Saturday. The pair were kayaking and watching a pod of whales around them when one of the whales made a 180-degree breach right on top of their kayak. A whale watching tour caught the shocking moment on video, and the video has gone viral since its posting, with more than three million views.
According to the Telegraph, Tom Mustill and Charlotte Kinloch were in their kayak off the coast of Monterey Bay when the whale breached right on top of them. The pair were a part of a British group vacationing in California. The pair spent three hours in the water, and they were headed back to shore around 8 a.m. on Saturday morning.
Mustill is a wildlife filmmaker, so he is used to close contact with animals. However, he revealed to the media that he is shocked to be alive after this incident.
“I remember coming to the surface and thinking, ‘How am I not dead? Maybe I’ve got lots of injuries but I’m in shock and can’t feel them. Then I saw Charlotte and thought, ‘How is she not dead?’ We had an amazing couple of hours and we were heading home. There were whales on the surface that we were watching, but we didn’t see this one; when a whale breaches you don’t see it on the surface because it has to get momentum from quite deep down. Then we saw it. It was above us and all I could see was this whale crashing towards us, blocking out the light. I thought, ‘Oh, I’m going to die now.’”
Mustill went on to reveal that the suction from the whale pulled him and Kinloch underwater. He called that the “really scary part.” He felt like no one would believe the encounter happened once they reached shore. However, many people witnessed the encounter when it happened on Saturday morning.
However, a man on a whale watching tour caught the entire incident on video, and Sanctuary Cruises shared the video on YouTube. On the video, the man’s excitement is clearly heard before a shocked woman screams about the kayak and its passengers.
On his blog, Captain Michael Sack spoke about the humpback whale encounter.
“Today a couple of kayakers were very lucky. They came very close to getting crushed to death by the mighty humpback whale. A full-size humpback can weigh in at 40-tons. That’s a lot of heavy blubber that would surely flatten a kayaker if the whale had a direct hit. This was one of the more dangerous situations that I’ve seen out here. Here we were, minding our own business, checking out large quantities of humpback whales as they surrounded us in the Sanctuary. When all of a sudden, this massive full-size whale does a full 180-degree breach. The only problem is that it landed on two kayakers on a tandom rig. Pretty serious situation. Kayak whale watching can be extremely dangerous. And one should realize that humpback whales are wild animals and totally unpredictable.”
Encounters between humpback whales and kayakers are not rare. In fact, this is not the first time an incident between a whale and a kayaker in Monterey Bay has made headlines.
Last year, a woman on a kayak was stunned when a whale flapped his tale just in front of her. Cimeron Morrissey shared the encounter on YouTube.
“Humpbacks are graceful and fully aware of their size and of their surroundings, so I wasn’t scared (at first) but I was certainly shocked that he chose to swim right up to me. He dove under my kayak, which was amazing and exhilarating! But then his back arched and came to the surface about 3 inches from my boat, which freaked me out a bit. I wondered: hmmm, maybe this one needs contact lenses? Then his enormous barnacle-encrusted tail came out of the water and was about 12 inches from my face, which pretty much made my eyes pop out of my head.”
Morrissey is not the only person to remark about the ability of whales to avoid people in their waters. After a 2011 incident in Alaska, Wendy Close Eskew spoke about the close encounters with whales she has experienced as owner of Alaskan Wilderness Adventures. According to Canoe & Kayak Magazine, she said, “Whales are extremely accurate. They know exactly where their body is in relationship to you. An adult turns sideways before it surfaces to see what’s above so they’ll never accidentally touch you.”
It is good to remember that the ocean is the whales’ world; humans are just visiting. That means encounters like these will continue to happen. It is likely that the whale involved in this latest incident did not intend to hurt the pair on the kayak.
What do you think of this amazing viral video? Have you ever been that close to a whale that big before?
[Photo credit: U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Wikimedia Commons]