Boaters enjoy amazing face-to-face encounter with humpback whales

Do whales go people watching? That certainly seemed to be the case during a remarkable encounter recently in California’s Monterey Bay, where two “friendly” humpback whales stationed themselves alongside the Sea Wolf II and remained there for more than a minute, seemingly as curious about the passengers as they were about the whales. (The real close-up action begins at the 1:06 mark.)

Humpback whales, when they’re not actively feeding, are sometimes curious about boaters. But to have them nudge up against a vessel and people watch is “an unusual and very special event,” said Alisa Schulman-Janiger, a whale researcher and a partner of Nancy Black, who owns the Monterey Bay Whale Watch vessel.

The researcher said this type of social interaction between humpback whales and people is a fairly recent phenomenon, having begun in the late 1990s. In California it occurs mostly off Monterey and to the south in the Santa Barbara Channel.

In the video, which was posted this week on the Monterey Bay Whale Watch Facebook page, viewers can hear Black saying to one of the whales, “Thank you for visiting us.”

A bit later, while face to face with a knob-headed humpback, a kid asks the whale, “Where’s your eyeball?”

The answer, he soon learns, is a bit lower on the side of the head.