Two California SCUBA divers were nearly captured in the mouths of two giant humpback whales as they were filming the whales in the water off Morro Bay.
Divers Shawn Stamback and Francis Antigua were aboard a charter boat that had been diving at Souza Rock, about 2 miles off Morro Bay. During a surface interval between dives, they decided to go snorkeling and film nearby schools of sardines and other smaller life. They had also hoped to get a few shots of the humpbacks who were swimming in the distance, about a quarter mile away at the time (or so they thought). The divers had cameras and a safety line attached to their boat.
Two whales apparently also found the same school of sardines, and using their vertical lunge-feeding method of catching fish, they both broke the surface just a few feet from the divers. While not intentional, the whales came within a few feet of accidentally capturing the divers in their mouths. The dramatic footage below was captured by another cameraman on their boat.
The divers are both fine. Divers are reminded that harassing or otherwise altering the natural behavior of the mammals could be in violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Humpback whales can weigh up to 80,000 pounds and reach 52 feet in length, and feed almost exclusively on krill and small fish, such as sardines. They migrate up to 16,000 miles each year, feed only in summer, and migrate to tropical or subtropical waters to breed and give birth in the winter. During the winter, humpbacks fast and live off their fat reserves.
Once hunted to the brink of extinction, their population fell by an estimated 90% before a moratorium was introduced in 1966. Stocks have since partially recovered, but entanglement in fishing gear, collisions with ships, and noise pollution continue to impact the 80,000 humpbacks worldwide.
They’re beautiful mammals and normally of no danger to divers, unless the divers mix themselves in with the humpback whales’ lunch.
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