Raw Footage: Whale Watchers Crushed by Massive Breaching Humpback


An innocent whale-watching excursion turned violent when a 7-ton humpback whale bodyslammed a boat and injured every member on board.

On May 14, a small boat named Andrea perused the bay near the Mexican port town of Topolobampo. The crew hoped to catch a glimpse of a humpback whale that had arrived in the waters a few days earlier, Live Science said.

A Twitter video posted by the Mexican news site Línea Directa showed Andrea was alongside other vessels when the humpback leaped into the air and landed atop the boat, nearly capsizing it.

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A photo shared on Twitter illustrated the extremity of the collision, revealing the boat’s collapsed roof, warped metal bars and blood-covered seats. It was unknown whether the blood in question belonged to the crew members or the whale, Live Science said.

According to Mexico News Daily, the crew consisted of two men and two women. One member suffered head and neck injuries, and another endured a broken leg.

On the day of the accident, Andrea was sailing without the necessary navigation permits, Línea Directa said. The crew also failed to wear life jackets.

Local authorities believe the boat was harassing the whale, Mexico News Daily reported. This might have caused the animal distress, prompting it to bodyslam the vessel.

Some experts, however, said the collision was likely accidental.

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“I do not think the whale was retaliating against harassment,” Jens Currie, the chief scientist of Hawaii’s Pacific Whale Foundation, told Live Science. “The whale was likely unaware of the boat’s close proximity.”

According to Currie, humpback whales usually respond to harassment by swimming away from the disturbance.

Because the Twitter video does not show the moments leading up to the collision, Mexico’s environmental protection agency, Profepa, was investigating the incident, Live Science said. The agency planned to analyze the whale’s injuries.

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According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, the Central American population of humpback whales is listed as endangered.

If the collision between the whale and the boat caused severe injuries to the humpback, the boat’s crew could face charges under Mexican law for the injury of a protected species, Línea Directa said.

According to NOAA, harassment from boats is one of the biggest threats to humpbacks.

“Whale watching vessels, recreational boats, and other vessels may cause stress and behavioral changes in humpback whales,” it said. “Because humpback whales are often found close to shore and generally surface in an active state, they tend to be popular whale watching attractions.”

The scientific journal Frontiers in Marine Science published a study in 2021 that demonstrated whales to have “increased swim speed, higher respiration rates and changes in diving behavior” when boats tail them too closely, Live Science said. These are “all signs of distress and can be very energetically expensive for whales,” it said.

Although the cause of the incident remains unknown, officials have begun proactively advising whale watchers.

“Please do not get too close to the whales,” Gerardo Vargas Landeros, the mayor of Mexico’s Ahome region, told Mexico News Daily. “We can enjoy their beauty, but at a distance.”

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Shelby Johnson is a student at Baylor University pursuing a bachelor's degree in Political Science and Economics. Joining The Western Journal as an Editorial Intern, she especially enjoys covering economic issues.