Photojournalist Brian Skerry who specializes in wildlife photography recently took these photographs of the Southern right whales in Auckland’s Island Marine Reserve. To shoot these images and to locate a population of right whales not affected by the pollution and shipping traffic of the American eastern seaboard, Skerry along with a research team from the University of Auckland rented a boat and headed to the Auckland Islands. Two days into the trip while at sea, they headed into Sandy Bay at Enderby Island.
“Even before we had dropped the anchor, we were mobbed by a dozen whales,” says Skerry of their encounter with the whales. “It was as if the natives had rowed out to meet us.” Right whales have been known to grow up to 60 feet long, and weigh as much as 100 tons.
The whales’ rotund bodies are black for the most part, and have roughened patches of skin known as callosities found on their heads. These huge creatures are referred to as ‘right whales’ since whalers once thought the whales were the ‘right’ ones to hunt down, since they float once killed and they normally swim within view of the shore.
Sadly, these creatures were massively reduced by severe hunting during the notorious years of the whaling trade. Luckily, people are content to watch these whales perform acrobatic feats these days instead of hunting them.
Skerry knew that it could be the first time for these particular whales to encounter humans, so he took a cautious approach, deciding to dive alone so as not to startle them. The whales turned out to be very curious, as they even nudged Skerry as if to gain his attention.
In one instance, Skerry simply looked and waved at one whale, which prompted It to follow him. This resulted in an enchanting interaction with the sea giant for a couple of hours. “Here was a 45-foot, 70-ton whale following me like a dog,” said Skerry.
See the amazing pictures gathered by Skerry and his team of this amazing encounter here.