A family outing in Washington State’s Puget Sound quickly turned to chaos when a duo of massive humpback whales came a little too close for comfort, prompting a woman aboard the vessel to call 911. The now-viral video was originally posted to Facebook by Darren Lucianna who, throughout the 2.5-minute video, is heard repeatedly trying to calm down the others on the boat.
“I don’t want to die right now,” someone is heard saying in the background while another person appears to be hyperventilating.
“Alright, we’re alright, calm down,” Lucianna is heard reassuring the passengers.
That’s when the gentle giant appears to move under the boat, rolling and waving his fin in the process.
“Relax. He’s checking us out. They’re not going to hurt you, just relax,” he says while admiring the whale’s playful behavior. “They’re very intelligent… Look at this you guys, you’ll never see this again.”
Then the phone call.
“I’m out in Puget Sound and there’s three gray [humpback] whales right underneath our boat, and I’m afraid we might get flipped over. I’m really scared,” a voice is heard exclaiming in the background.
Although the entire scenario is as ridiculous – and incredible – as it seems, we have to give some credit to the woman. At the end of the video, she explains that she was notifying authorities of the boat’s location in case something bad happened, although it's incredibly unlikely it would have.
The boat then drives away as the whales follow the family, spouting off in the distance.
IFLScience spoke with Alaska-based marine biologist Molly Zaleski, who said that she has worked on whale watching missions and has "definitely" had whales approach the boats often because they were in the general direction of where the mammals were heading, or because the animals seemed curious. (She's hesitant to anthropomorphize their behavior, though.) She said if you find yourself in a similar situation, "cautiously enjoy the moment."
"When the whale exhales that close you can enjoy the 'aroma' that comes from a mostly krill and fish diet," she said. "And don't waste the opportunity to say, 'thar she blows!'"
She also said not to turn the boat engine on because this poses a risk of injuring the animals.
"Don't try to touch the whale, and definitely don't approach a whale to put yourself in that situation," she continued, saying different states have different regulations about maintaining certain distances from the whales or else you'll receive a hefty citation.
Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) are actually one of the most intelligent creatures on Earth. These massive mammals can grow bigger than a school bus, reaching lengths of up to 18 meters (60 feet) and weighing around 30 tonnes (33 tons). Although they’re one of the largest and most powerful animals in the underwater world, they feed on one of the tiniest as they hug the coastlines in annual migrations throughout the Pacific Ocean, hopping between Mexico, Hawaii, and Alaska before sometimes making their way over to Russia and Japan. The video had more than 4.3 million views at the time of publication.