November 2017. I went out the SHIP OF FOOLS and had a very cool experience with two Humpback Whales off Atlantic Beach and Rockaway.
Here is the setup, many whales out there this day. It was towards the end of the day and I am heading back to the inlet. Off shore I see a humpback doing some tail slapping and pectoral fin slapping with a few small breaches or half breaches, throwing water all around and splashing. I charge out to get some photos of this humpback and quickly I see that its two Humpbacks not one. They were very close to each other, making a ruckus mostly pectoral slapping and from the looks of it I must guess they are having fun. These whales are not in the NYC Humpback Whale Catalog yet, they were numbered as NYC0073 (nicknamed KLECKO) and NYC0074.
Not needed to be said, but I am going to say it anyway, I always respect the whales space. I adhere to the guidelines of Whale SENSE for “commercial whale watching boats” and See a spout watch out from NOAA. I always give the whales as much room as they need. If they come to my boat and get close, it’s on their terms. It is never forced.
(Photo below NYC0073 is on the right, NYC0074 is on the left.)
Whale NYC0073 (#73) was getting very close to whale NYC0074 (#74) pectoral slapping all the way. As #73 is getting closer he gently hits #74 with his pectoral fin. #74 reacts with trying to slap #73 back but didn’t connect. A few minutes later #73 hits #74 with its pectoral fin again and #74 tries to hit back #73 but couldn't, it was out of position once again. This game of tag goes on for a ½ hour, #73 misses a few times with its slaps and #74 might have got one slap in. They were going in big slow circles while this was going on. My boat was out of gear with the engine running, they knew I was there but they didn’t care.
(Photo below#73 hitting #74)
#73 hits #74 again and #74 must have had it with getting hit or maybe wanted to change up the game. So, whale #74 set itself up in front and very close to whale #73, lifted its tail and slapped the water and followed through down into the water and bopped #73 on its head with its very large tale...while it was under water. As Whale #73's head was underwater and when it was hit by the tail slap it let out a very big bubble blast! I was thinking to myself hmmm, this could go either way! I might see a whale fight, or was this funny to #74 and they are playing? Only the whales know what's going on, it’s not like I see this every day??
After the tail slap to the head #74 did get a little more aggressive towards #73 and they both chased each other in circles, it still was a slow chase, but it looked more serious now, fun or not.
(photos below #74 bopping #73 on the head)
During the chase they were getting closer and closer to my boat, pectoral fin slapping the water the whole way. It came to the point where they were getting close, too close. I was thinking on the next pass as they are circling they might hit the boat or me as they are slapping the water. I don’t want any part of this, I start to bang on the side of the boat. As I was making some noise I could clearly see they were surprised that I was there by their reactions. They heard me loud and clear and contorted their body as to not hit me or the boat. They kicked their tails, moved over 50 feet and went right back to pectoral fin slapping and the slow chase.
This went on for some time, I was out all day, it’s time to go home and process these photos. I turned and went back in leaving the two humpbacks to chase each other in peace.
(photo below #74 on left #73 on the right)
On #74’s back you can see a scratch from being brushing against by the barnacles on the end of #73’s pectoral fin.
On #73’s pectoral fin you can see a few cuts from brushing against the barnacles on #74’s body