Animals | February 6, 2023 11:51 AM | hangbony
It was a rare clear, crisp, cold winter day offshore Mbotyi in Pondoland, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa (formerly Transkei). The seas were unusually calm that day in the Indian Ocean. That wouldn’t last long, soon returning to howling winds, whitecap waves, and giant swells! Did I mention it was cold—on land, at sea, and in the water? We are four SCUBA divers in a small “rubber duck” inflatable boat with two powerful 110 hp four-stroke outboard motors. Clive is captain, Carlos is divemaster, and Levi is deckhand.
We are hunting for sardines. It is the annual and world-famous “South African Sardine Run,” a mass migration of pilchard fish up the east coast of Africa. Actually, we are not interested in the sardines but rather the predators they attract. Hungry bottlenose and common dolphins herded the long line of small sardines into compact groups called “bait balls.” Once a ball is formed, a feeding frenzy ensues. Dolphins, sharks, and birds feast on the dense pack of small fish. An ultralight airplane is overhead, looking for action.
Sightings are radioed to us, and off we go at breakneck speed, hoping to record some real action. (Marius Nel, pilot) Sadly, our six or seven hours daily on the water entail mostly waiting, waiting, and waiting a little longer until we find the elusive sardine bait ball. Migrating humpback whales keep us company while we wait. Some are mothers with calves. Some are males traveling in small groups. This day, there were few sardine sightings, but the whales seemed to be everywhere! An unexpected bonus! This video shows a humpback whale mother cow swimming with a calf.
It shows an adult 40-ton whale on its back, slapping both its left and right fins on the water, then leaping entirely out of the water! It seems that never before has a recording been made of an adult humpback whale leaping entirely out of the water! a very rare event indeed. Dolphins and even great white sharks have been seen flying out of the water, but this is a first for an adult humpback whale!
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