(Photo : Reuters)
Two divers in the waters off Central California got the rush of their lives when two humpback whales emerged from the water with their mouths open and lunged backward, only a few feet away from where the men were floating.
(See the video, and pay close attention at :30 seconds.)
The heart-stopping encounter occurred during a charter diving trip to Souza Rock, about two miles off Morro Bay, which is located South of San Francisco.
Shawn Stamback, one of the divers in the footage, said humpback whales were seen feeding about a quarter-mile away when he and Francis Antigua slipped into the water with snorkeling gear and cameras, intending on using up some of the time they had before their next scheduled scuba dive
The two men, Stamback said, "were just floating around in the water, hoping to get some shots of the whales in the distance, when all of a sudden the sardines started going crazy."
According to a report posted on the blog site petethomasoutdoors.com, Jay Hebrard and Jeremy Bonnett were in the boat videotaping when the whales swam upward in full gulp-mode.
Humpback whales, which can weigh up to 40 tons, scoop up great amounts of fish and sea water as they feed and then expel the water through the baleen plates in their mouths.
They generally feed on shrimp-like krill and schooling baitfish, such as the sardines frantically scurrying around the divers before the particular whales emerged.
It's against federal law to harass or alter the behavior of whales and other marine mammals and boaters are advised to remain at least 100 yards from where whales are swimming.
Monica DeAngelis, a mammal expert with the National Marine Fisheries Service, said she could not tell whether the divers violated any of the protection laws, simply based on the video footage, although "they were clearly closer than the [100-yard] recommended guidelines... they certainly are lucky no one got hurt."
Stamback later said he had a feeling the whales were actually aware he and Antigua were in the water and missed them intentionally, as there were thousands of fish all around them.
"I was right in the middle of the meatball," he said.