Like a dramatic scene from a Hollywood thriller, a humpback whale suddenly emerged from the water just feet from boats, docks, and onlookers in southeastern Alaska, its giant mouth gaping.
Fisherman Cy Williams recorded the scene at Knudson Cove Marina in Ketchikan, Alaska, on May 2. He tried to follow the path of the big animal under his boat, noting the bubbles rising to the surface. “It was breathtaking," Williams told video licensing service Caters TV. "I genuinely thought it was going to hit the boat or the dock as it was so big." The witness estimates the humpback's size at between 40 and 50 feet.
The whale can be seen so clearly that barnacles are visible on its massive chin. "It's surprising to see the animal so close to the docks," says Leigh Torres, a marine ecologist and National Geographic explorer who is also a professor at Oregon State University.
"But humpback whale populations are really expanding, so maybe they are looking for new areas to find prey, or trying to avoid competition from other whales," Torres says.
Humpbacks (Megaptera novaeangliae) are large baleen whales that range in length from 39 to 52 feet (12 to 16 meters) and weigh up to 79,000 pounds (36,000 kilograms). With their distinctive, curved body shape and habit of frequently breaching above the water, they are among the whales best known by the public and are frequently the target of watching tours.