Witnessing an awe-inspiring spectacle in Monterey Bay, California, a group of whale watchers aboard a boat were treated to a breathtaking view when a humpback whale breached right beside their vessel. This remarkable event was captured in a series of photos that showcase the grandeur of the moment.
The star of the show was a 4-year-old female humpback whale named Murph, whose colossal body soared above the boat teeming with eager photographers eager to capture this extraordinary sight. One particularly striking image depicts Murph seemingly inches away from the tour boat, her fin playfully reaching out as if to touch the vessel. Having dazzled the audience with her display, Murph gracefully plunged back into the depths, leaving behind a tremendous splash in her wake.
The photographs were skillfully taken by Jodi Frediani, a seasoned 74-year-old whale photographer who happened to be on a separate boat during the occurrence. Prior to this captivating encounter, Frediani had been observing two whales swimming and feasting on anchovies near her vessel.
Having spent 18 years swimming with and photographing humpbacks, Frediani had witnessed similar scenes in Monterey Bay before, including a memorable incident in 2018 when another humpback whale ventured remarkably close to a tour boat.
In a previous interview with PEOPLE, Frediani expressed her assurance that humpback whales do not pose a deliberate threat to humans. She emphasized their adeptness at navigating around stationary boats, stating that fear is far from her mind when encountering these majestic creatures up close. Instead, she finds herself overwhelmed by their awe-inspiring power and magnificence.
According to Frediani, humpback whales often find themselves in proximity to boats while pursuing their prey. This can result in sudden and exhilarating encounters that elicit screams and squeals of excitement from onlookers. While guidelines stipulate staying 100 yards away from the whales, the feeding dynamics are dynamic, and at times, the fish seek refuge beneath the boat, prompting the whales to make surprise lunges nearby.
Frediani hopes that her captivating photographs will inspire others to champion the cause of humpback whale preservation, along with safeguarding their food sources and the oceans we share. For her, nothing surpasses the sheer joy she experiences when observing and photographing humpback whales as they engage in lunge-feeding. The moment their colossal heads abruptly breach the surface, emerging from the deep with an air of enchantment and surprise, fills her heart with immeasurable delight.
According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, humpback whales are often sighted in Monterey Bay from April to late December before migrating to warmer waters off the coast of Mexico during the winter season. Their diet primarily consists of shrimp-like crustaceans, krill, and small fish.
It is worth noting that the United States designated humpback whales as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Conservation Act in 1970, as stated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This designation underscores the imperative need for concerted efforts in preserving these remarkable creatures and ensuring their survival for generations to come.