While it’s always thrilling to see any ocean creature in its natural habitat, there’s something uniquely special about seeing a whale breach the surface of the water. A group of whale watchers recently got lucky with an extreme up-close encounter with a pod of humpbacks off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. SeaSalt Charters was doing one of their regular whale-watching expeditions when the group of feeding humpbacks surfaced right next to their boat.
“It’s gonna be big. See the bubbles?” Captain Chad Avellar is heard to say right before two open-mouthed humpbacks rise from the ocean just feet away. They are soon joined by several more members of the pod, who cruise for a few moments before flipping their tails and descending back into the water.
The whales were in the process of bubble net feeding. This technique sees the whales circle a group of fish from below, blowing bubbles to force their prey toward the surface. Finally, when the fish are trapped in a concentrated area, the whales swim up through their “bubble net,” catching their meal in their giant, open mouths. Humpbacks need to eat upwards of 1,500 pounds of food each day, so teamwork is integral in helping them eat enough to survive.
Whale watchers often get to see humpbacks at a distance, but it takes a little luck to get this type of up-close experience. Expeditions are not allowed to purposely get within 100 feet of the animals, but as Seasalt Charters notes on their Facebook page, they had been stopped for a long time when the pod appeared next to their boats. The resulting footage is described as one of Captain Chad’s “best whale watching videos ever in the decades he’s been on the water.”