A 45-foot humpback whale leapt above the waves as group of nature lovers gazed the wrong way this past weekend off the Atlantic coast of Ireland.
A cameraman caught the “whale ahoy” moment off Baltimore in west Cork where marine enthusiasts have been cruising the waters hoping to sight a group of five humpbacks that have been feeding on local shoals of sprat and herring for the last two weeks.
The presence of the humpbacks, breaching the waves with their 30-tonne bodies in pursuit of fish, has triggered a mini-tourism boom as people flock to the village to charter local boats in search of the whales.
Simon Duggan, 44, a local photographer and RNLI Lifeboat crew member, took a series of photographs of the humpbacks “bubble feeding” – the hunting technique where whales dive under a shoal of fish, releasing air bubbles to confuse their prey and bunch them together.
After herding and confusing the fish, the whales use their powerful bodies to surge upwards through the shoal with their mouths wide open to scoop up as many sprat or herring as possible.
After taking the picture of the humpback fully breaching the water after hoovering up its prey, a rare and spectacular display of the cetacean’s hunting prowess, Mr Duggan noticed that another boat of whale watchers had missed their moment.
“It happened so fast – the adrenalin was going,” he said. “When I looked at the photo I realised everyone else was looking the wrong way.”