It’s not every day that you get to see a whale coming up to feed on a massive glob of sardines and an even rarer day when you get to see a whale nearly swallow a man. In the video below, a diver, we’ll call him “Jonah”, was filming the whale as the giant beast rose to feed on a huge school of sardines during the annual sardine run, from May through June when millions of sardines travel north along the South African coastline to reproduce. “Jonah” saw the whale coming up and knew he was a goner. According to the diver/photographer:
“The diameter of his mouth was big enough to swallow a car. He would have barely felt me going in.”
Fortunately for the photographer (whose real name was Rainer Schimpf), at the last moment, the 49-foot Bryde’s whale sensed his presence as he rose from the water and diverted his run away from the diver, missing the photographer and most of the “bait ball” too.
Bryde’s whales regularly dive for about 5–15 minutes (maximum of 20 minutes) after 4–7 blows. They are capable of reaching depths up to 1,000 feet and display seemingly erratic behavior compared to other whales, because they surface at irregular intervals and can change directions for unknown reasons. Bryde’s whales weigh around 90,000 pounds and can consume up to 1,450 pounds of food per day. The whales typically feed on krill, crustaceans, small fish, and an occasional errant swimmer.
Why Bryde’s Whales Suddenly Change Direction?
Bryde’s whales are known for their sudden changes in direction while swimming. Researchers have been studying this behavior for years, and have come up with a few theories as to why they do it.
One theory is that the whales are following their prey. Bryde’s whales primarily feed on small fish and plankton, which can be found in dense patches in the ocean. By suddenly changing direction, the whales may be able to follow these patches and continue feeding.
Another theory is that the whales are avoiding predators. Killer whales and sharks are natural predators of Bryde’s whales, and sudden changes in direction may help them avoid a potential attack.
Finally, some researchers believe that the whales are simply playing. Bryde’s whales are known for their acrobatic behavior, and sudden changes in direction could be part of their playful nature.
While we may never know the exact reason why Bryde’s whales suddenly change direction, it is clear that this behavior is an important part of their lives in the ocean.