Whale watchers had a rare encounter with a particularly friendly humpback whale on the B.C. coast on Sunday. Cellphone video shows the massive creature rubbing its belly against the hull of an adventure tourism boat.
The footage was captured by Nick Templeman, who runs Campbell River Whale and Bear Excursions.
“It’s definitely not a common occurrence,” said Templeman. “It gave me a new appreciation for humpback whales.”
The events unfolded about two miles from Mitlenatch Island, southeast of Campbell River, where several tour companies were observing the humpback.
They retreated as the whale came closer. But realizing that the immense whale was in the immediate vicinity of his boat, Templeman shut down its motor for safety.
Moments later, it was directly underneath.
In the video, Templeman can be heard exclaiming: “He’s right under the boat! He’s rubbing the hull!”
The whale goes on to frolic in the nearby waters. The passengers were evidently astonished.
“This is insane,” someone says. “He’s so friendly.”
The immense sea creature appears to enjoy the attention, despite the barking of Templeman’s dog, a Siberian husky named Yukon.
At one point in the video, the humpback sprays Templeman with water from its blowhole, prompting him to say “the whole boat needs a shower.”
Templeman later saidthat the Sunday encounter was a rare experience known as a “mugging.” It’s a term applied to humpbacks when they “start checking the boat out, and sorta being friendly towards the boat.”
That includes “spyhopping,” when a whale sticks its head vertically from the water, likely to get a better view.
“They have quite an amazing large eye,” said Templeman. “They’re very aware of their surroundings, and they’ll spin around with that eye and have a look at you. It’s quite surreal.”
The whale also performed a series of rolls, showing off its large pectoral fins.
The whole encounter lasted about 90 minutes, said Templeman.
“Every time I thought about putting the engines back on, that whale was back under the boat,” he said.
Finally, the whale expelled a “nice big red pile of big krill poop,” he said, and then “made one complete turn of the boat, had one more spyhop,” rolled off the bow and flourished its tail, before disappearing into the deep.
Later, a friend of Templeman’s identified the whale.
It turns out this particular creature, which normally swims in waters further south, is known for frequent muggings.
“He is a notorious boat mugger,” said Templeman. “This particular whale has a reputation.”
He added that although the whale was touching the hull, it didn’t cause the boat to rock. The effect was barely discernible for the passengers, he said.
Asked if he felt unsafe, he said “not at all.”
The tourism operator, whose career spans more than 20 years, said that encounters with whales are becoming more common, possibly due to a resurgence in whale populations and ample food supplies in local waters.
“I think it’s something we should all start getting used to,” he said.