Swimmer watches in awe as gigantic humpback whale rises beside him
Tonga is one of the only places in the world that humpback whales can go to be safe from predators. Pregnant females migrate yearly to the waters that surround the 169 islands in the Republic of Tonga to give birth to their calves. The males follow because these waters are also their breeding grounds.
Humpback whales are among the most intelligent and complex creatures on earth, following behind humans and possibly dolphins. Their communication is so complex that we are only now beginning to understand how much information may be contained in a single whale song. Their repeating patterns of squeals, grunts, and pings can go on for as long as twenty minutes before beginning a second, identical loop. They can be heard for hundreds of kilometers. This very fortunate swimmer had travelled from Canada to Tonga in the hope of seeing one of these incredible animals close up. This gigantic male lay resting on the ocean bottom more than 50m (150 feet) beneath him, rising to get a few breaths of air before sinking back down. The swimmer was astonished to watch the enormous animal heading almost directly toward him. It gracefully curved and drifted up beside him, only a few meters (15feet) away.
Looking into the eye of such a magnificent and intelligent creature, it's impossible not to wonder what they think of us. If they could speak to us, what wisdom would they pass on? What questions would they ask. As recently as 100,000 years ago, they were the most intelligent creatures on earth. They have been around far longer than humans and even our human ancestors. They have as much right, if not more, than we do to live on this planet and yet they are hunted and harvested by humans for their blubber, oil, and bones.
Many countries have banned whaling but there are still countries who pursue and kill them for their carcasses, or under the guise of conducting scientific research. If we could look into their gentle eyes and swim in their presence we would likely all understand the horror of such practices. To lose these magnificent creatures would be beyond tragic!