What a thrill to see a whale for the first time in person!
This is a montage I compiled of my best photos of a humpback whale feeding offshore in San Francisco Bay near the Golden Gate Bridge on July 12th, 2016.
Its scientific name, Megaptera novaeangliae means, "big winged New Englander", referring to its large pectoral fins measuring about one third of its body length and the regular sightings of these whales off the coast of New England of the United States.
These majestic and immense creatures reach a length of 52 feet or more and can weigh up to 79,000 lbs. (almost 40 tons). Their typical migration is nearly 16,000 miles each year. This is by far the largest member of God's amazing creation I have ever photographed!
It has been reported that an "unprecedented" number of humpback whales visited the shallower waters of San Francisco Bay in spring and summer of 2016. Wildlife experts think this might be caused by unusually large numbers of anchovies and herring making for quite a feast for these large creatures. Normally, approximately 1,400 humpback whales feed in the much deeper North Pacific Ocean several miles off the California coast during the summer and fall months.
I have read that although they are docile, it is best not to get too close to these mammoth creatures, as their unexpected surfacing and spectacular breaching out of the water can easily capsize a small boat.
Here is a description of each photo in this collage (clockwise from upper left) ::
1) The bushy spout of a humpback whale can reach up to 10 feet or more in height. Warmed air and carbon dioxide are exhaled from the whale's lungs through its twin blowholes, turning into condensing water vapor as it comes in contact with the colder air. Whales, unlike humans, are created to have their breathing tube bypass the throat and go directly from the blowholes to the lungs. This prevents water and food from accidentally getting into the lungs. Whales surface every 10 to 15 minutes to breathe, and can hold their breath up to 45 minutes. The entire brain of the humpback whale never totally sleeps; scientists hypothesize that half its brain keeps awake to control the whale's surfacing, exhaling, breathing and diving while the other half of its brain sleeps.
2) This photo shows the humpback lunge feeding, which is a vertical upward lunge through a school of fish with its mouth wide open. Visible are the tip of its "chin" and throat pleats extending above the water. These whales use their baleen plates, comb-like sieves that hang down from the upper jaw, to expel water before swallowing the food. Adult humpbacks can consume up to a ton or more of available food each day consisting of small shrimp-like krill, fish and plankton.
3) The whale's knobby dorsal fin is shown as it raises a large part of its back out of the water while feeding. A flock of seagulls knows where the fish are!
4) The elegant knobby dorsal ridge is visible, located in back of the dorsal fin and running along the whale's lower back towards the flukes.
I am so grateful to God that the Creator granted my heart's desire to see one of these magnificent animals from the safety of the shoreline!
"And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good." Genesis 1:21, KJV
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Embedded in the top right-hand corner is the Hebrew acronym for "B'ezras Hashem" [ב ס " ד] meaning "with God's help". It is a reminder to me as an artist and photographer of my dependence on the Almighty, the Originator of all creativity. This is a similar acknowledgement used by great artists like Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel who signed their work with the Latin phrase, "Soli Deo gloria" which means, "Glory to God alone".