Humpback whale’s ‘unthinkably’ high breach captured in photos

·2 min read

The image atop this post, showing a humpback whale calf breaching clear of the surface, was featured this week by a whale-themed Facebook page with no details about location or time. For The Win Outdoors reached out to the photographer, Burak Ayday, and was told the image is part of a sequence captured off Maui on March 1, 2020, as COVID-19 dominated the news cycle and days before a global pandemic was declared.

The images are wonderful in part because large whales rarely launch their massive bodies entirely out of the water – it’s a feat mostly reserved for smaller calves. Ayday allowed the use of his photos and provided the following recollection of his unforgettable encounter:

“It is a day that I won’t soon forget. The media was full of talk of the coronavirus and the unsure times ahead. Living in Hawaii, there is a sort of disconnect from the news and things that are happening worldwide. All I knew is that whales were in abundance in Maui and that I needed to get out and capture as much as I could before the season had ended or lockdowns were put in place.

“A friend of mine, Sean, texted me at about 7 a.m. and asked if I wanted to hit the water. Shortly after 8 we were heading out in search of whales. During our mission we encountered lots of friendly whales, and picture-perfect water conditions.

“We came upon this calf at about noon. The little calf put on quite the show, displaying pec-slaps, lunges, and breaches for well over 30 minutes… right before he took it upon itself to perform one of the most legendary breaches I have ever seen with my own eyes.

“The boat went absolutely silent… there were no words to be had for what just happened. This whale cleared an unthinkable distance above the surface, and we were lucky enough to have witnessed it. Gratitude and disbelief quickly entered my mind.

“How, Why, How, and How? This whale had already used up so much energy. How did it find it within itself to propel himself out of the water like a rocket to the moon? I truly don’t know, but what I do know is that not 15 seconds later a full-grown bull of a humpback barreled himself out of the water as high as possible, as if not to be outdone by a wee young calf.

“I think about this day often. This calf serves as a source of inspiration. The courage, the strength, and execution of the breach we witnessed, will continue to inspire me for the rest of my life.”