A 19-year-old diver hopped into the water with his video camera when he and his father noticed two southern right whales swimming near the surface off the east coast of Tasmania near Bicheno.
With his camera recording, Kaeo Landon-Lane watched as one whale came closer and closer until he was face-to-face with the cetacean.
“It got so close I could see the hairs on her chin,” Landon-Lane told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. “I remember thinking, ‘That’s close enough now.’”
Then, he was prompted to take defensive action, as seen in his video:
After jumping into the water, Landon-Lane swam away from the boat and remained completely still. He saw the right whales in the distance twice, and on the third spotting they were heading directly toward him.
“There were a lot of things going through my head, but fear was not high on that list,” he told ABC.
“It aimed for the center of my chest. I didn’t feel comfortable with the chest bump, so I reached out my hand so that I could keep some small distance.”
He called it “the biggest nose boop ever.”
“It held that touch for a moment, before backing up with its tail and moving past me,” he continued. My thigh was now on another collision course with its pectoral flipper, which gently bumped me sideways as it glided past.”
He swam back to the boat where the whales proceeded to make three more swim-bys. Landon-Lane’s father, Chris, then joined his son in the water and enjoyed watching the right whales swim by a few more times.
“I want to make it clear that humans touching whales is not OK, and that this whale initiated this contact,” Landon-Lane told ABC. “Harassing a whale could be the last thing you do. Whales are curious and intelligent creatures, if you’re interesting then they’ll hang around.”
Humpback whales and southern right whales, one of three listed as endangered under Tasmania’s Threatened Species Protection Act, are the two best-known whale species that migrate past Tasmania. The Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Department warn whale watchers not to get any closer than 100 meters.
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