Humpback whales have been giving visitors to Salisbury Beach a show, rising above the waters just off the shore in pursuit of their next snack.
The Daily News of Newburyport reports that the whales were first spotted close to shore on September 10.
Humpbacks were also spotted near the shore in Seabrook, New Hampshire, where a paddle boarder got a very close look at a leviathan.
At least one whale was still there about a week later, when underwater cinematographer Mike Laptew arrived, filming aboard a chartered fishing boat Saturday. The photographer said the objective for himself and others on the boat from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, was to see the schools of menhaden that were in the Hampden and Salisbury beach areas.
Laptew said they’d made their way down the coast in a thick fog, but almost as soon as they crossed into the Bay State, they saw what they believed was a minke whale, which they’d seen in the area before.
“When it breached we instantly knew it was a juvenile humpback whale,” he said. “It pushed into the beach, at some points within 50 yards of shore and proceeded to gobble up the thick schools of menhaden.”
Salisbury Harbormaster Ray Pike said he received reports from boaters and people on the beach spotting the humpbacks again Monday and Tuesday.
“The interesting thing is there a lot of fish showing up near shore,” he said.
Those fish are drawing both fishermen and the whales.
“We’ve had some really close sightings,” he said. “The whales are going to follow the fish.”
Cathrine Macort of the Center for Coastal Studies on Cape Cod told the Daily News it isn’t rare to see humpback whales close to the shore if there’s deeper water nearby.
Laptew said he watched Saturday as the whale engaged in its feeding pattern.
“The most incredible aspect was the fact that this was playing out in only 10 to 15 feet of water,” he said.
Laptew said he and his colleagues kept their distance and shut down the boat’s motor when the whale came close. At one point, he said, it went under their boat as it headed toward the beach.
“It was amazing to watch how fast it would travel parallel to shore with the baitfish leaping out of the water and telegraphing its exact location,” he said. “Then, it would either quickly open and close its mouth in a super fast gulping action or it would launch itself straight out of the water with its mouth agape and bellowing open with fish galore trying to frantically escape being swallowed alive.”
Check out the photos Laptew was able to take of the whale below: