A photographer driving along the coast in California pulled over and managed to capture some unbelievable shots of a humpback whale rising from the water as stunned spectators looked on just a few feet away.
Bill Bouton, a 69-year-old retired high school biology teacher, told Today.com he had been attempting to photograph birds when he saw the whale scene unfold. He spent an hour taking the pictures, which went viral after he posted them on Flickr.
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Another close whale encounter occurred just last week. A woman who was out with her daughter in a kayak near Avila Beach, Calif., managed to catch video footage of a humpback coming out of the water, KSBY.com reports. She called it the memory of a lifetime.
The central California coast has proved to be a whale hotspot this year, with the Monterey area in particular experiencing an increase in the number of blue and humpback whale sightings, according to the Associated Press. The presence of so many whales can in part be explained by an abundance of krill, which is among their favorite foods.
Ken Stagnaro, a co-owner of a whale watching business in Santa Cruz, told the Associated Press that his business has doubled this year.
"The word is out right now. If you want to see a whale or blue whale or several species of whale, now's the time to go for sure," he said.
On the Atlantic coast, too, whales are making plenty of appearances, but under less fortunate circumstances.
Earlier this week, a young humpback whale near Cape Cod had to be freed from ropes, after it became entangled for the second time in a month. Three other humpbacks have been saved from similar situations in the area this summer.
Researchers studying whale feeding activities hope to collect data that will influence the policies on fishing and shipping in Massachusetts so that whales can be better protected from the heavy boating activity, according to the New York Times.
Humpback whales can be as large as 60 feet long. While feeding, they prefer shallow waters, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Humpbacks face threats such as "entanglement in fishing gear," ship strikes and whale watch harassment.