A Curious 30-Foot Humpback Approached a Group of Divers. "Playful As a Toddler."
The whale got so close to the divers that they had to dodge its giant fins.
You've heard of swimming with sharks. But a group of divers got a once-in-a-lifetime experience when a curious humpback whale approached them. The 30-foot creature hung out with them for about an hour, and it was all caught on video. It happened off the coast of French Polynesia in September, the Daily Mail reported. Professional diver Kayleigh Grant filmed the whale swimming between the divers and breaking the surface. Its fins came within inches of her body. The whale got so close to the divers that they had to dodge its giant fins. Read on to find out what the group was thinking and why this behavior isn't as unusual as it may seem.
Young whales who've recently moved on from their mother's care can seem curious about, even playful, with humans. "It was really beautiful," said Grant. "It's strange that an animal like that is conscious of their body and approaching in play and curiosity. It really is pretty rare that they will take interest like that."
She added that the whale seemed playful and rambunctious. "It's like babysitting a 40-ton animal," she said. "They really do have the playful nature of a toddler of any species, even a human toddler."
Grant said whales don't mean to harm humans but still require caution when they're in the vicinity. "You have to be cautious, just because of their size. Even a swipe of the tail fin could be dangerous to a human." This was a rare encounter. Grant said she's only encountered a whale up close a handful of times in a decade of diving. "We have seasons with whales. They're not around all the time like sharks, so maybe you'll get lucky like this once a year if you're a diver. 'If you're a regular person it's extremely lucky, a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience."
Humpback whales are the drama kings of the sea: Whale watchers thrill to their acrobatic displays, which involve hoisting their huge bodies out of the water and smacking the surface with their fins. In warmer weather, they're found along the Pacific coastline, from California to Canada, before moving south to Mexico to breed and wait out the winter. The Marine Mammal Center estimates 2,900 whales frequent the Pacific coast.
Humpback whales are some of the largest forms of marine life. The biggest can grow to 55 feet long, 18 feet wide, and weigh nearly 40 tons. Although humpbacks live in oceans throughout the world, the US considers several of their types to be endangered species. Commercial whaling depleted the population by 95 percent, and a 1985 ban on that industry has led to a resurgence.
Other close calls with humpback whales have gone viral. In 2016, a pair of kayakers got within feet of a humpback at Spanish Banks beach in Vancouver. They had been watching and pursuing the creature for hours, with video rolling. "I would have probably peed my kayak, I would have been that scared," a marine mammal research biologist with the Vancouver Aquarium told CBC News, discouraging others from getting so close to the giant creatures.