Tail of the Humpback. Monterey Coast, California. September 3, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.
The tail of a humpback whale is all the remains as it dives beneath the Pacific Ocean
Back in early September I had a remarkable morning at the Point Lobos State Reserve along the California coast just south of Carmel. This has been a year of unusual weather and unusual ocean conditions, including much warmer than usual waters. Most likely as a result of this, sea life has behaved in unusual ways — for example, certain species that are rare along the coast or that usually stay farther out to sea have shown up right along the coast. That was the case on this morning when huge schools of small fish had apparently appeared very close to the rocks of Point Lobos.
When I went there on this morning I suspected that I might spot some whales, but what I saw exceeded my expectations. I arrived and walked out onto a high bluff that extends a way out from the shoreline, and from here I could immediately see commotion on the surface of the water very close — thousands of birds were obviously feeding on something. Within moments I spotted my first humpback whale and before long many more showed up. Every so often they engaged in spectacular examples of bubble feeding, in which groups of them work together to corral the fish they feed on, at which point the group suddenly breaks the surface all at once, with gaping mouths wide open to catch a meal. This photograph is a bit less spectacular, but it is still a special experience to watch these huge creatures slowly glide below the water’s surface.
G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. His book, “California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide to Autumn in the Sierra” is available from Heyday Books and Amazon.
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