This has been a long and incredible blue whale season off Southern California, with close encounters enjoyed by marine mammal enthusiasts from shore and on boats, and from stand-up paddleboards and kayaks.
Some of the footage has been amazing. It has included first-ever-documented above-surface vocalization. People have witnessed courtship behavior, and TV news crews have shared aerial footage of the majestic creatures, revealing their enormous size.
In one case, off Dana Point, a man on a stand-up paddleboard was just a few feet away when a giant blue whale revealed its broad fluke as he filmed the episode. The latest great clip, though it's long and unedited (pay attention to the beginning and the 1:15 and 2:15 marks), was posted recently to YouTube by a user named MrRJCtube.
From a kayak he captured surface lunge-feeding while filimg with what presumably was a helmet camera. He also dove below the surface and enjoyed incredibly close approaches with a gargantuan blue whale.
While some of the footage is spectacular, the videographer undoubtedly placed himself at risk by getting so close to such a large and powerful creature (blue whales can measure 100 feet and weigh up to 150 tons). He might also have violated National Marine Fisheries Service guidelines.
Days after posting the video he shared this comment on his YouTube channel: "I'd like to take a moment to state that I don't recommend, endorse or in any way want to encourage anyone to try and swim with these whales. The whales are large, unpredictable animals and potentially dangerous."
It was a treasured experience, for sure. But was it wise for him to get so close?
Said Monica DeAngelis, a marine mammal biologist with the NOAA Fisheries Service: "These are wild and powerful animals. One move of a flipper or the whale's fluke and this person could have been seriously hurt."