Sometimes, you’re just in the right place at the right time. For aerial photographer Jaimen Hudson, that moment came when a pair of southern right whales curiously approached a paddleboarder off the Australian coast. Pack it in, folks … this is about as beautiful an encounter as it gets.
When Hudson heard rumour that the whales (Eubalaena australis) had been cruising near his home in the Australian town of Esperance, he decided to try his luck at photographing them. “I set up my equipment on the footpath and flew the drone out,” he told ABC. A local paddleboarder was out on the water when the whales began to make their way over. “They were so inquisitive,” recalls Hudson. “The whales moved to where he was and the whole time they were very slow moving and peaceful.”
Of the estimated 12,000 southern right whales in the world, about 1,500 are known to visit Australian waters each year, typically between May and October. Like many ocean giants, the whales are filter feeders, using their 2.8-metre baleen to scoop up krill and other small crustaceans. They’re also notoriously docile (which is why early settlers considered them the “right whales” to hunt). Despite their nature, these are 85-ton animals and should be given a wide berth at all times – which is why we’re glad the paddleboarder refrained from chasing or touching them.
Notice the large, white patches near the whales’ heads? These might look like barnacles, but they aren’t what they seem. The roughened areas of skin, known as “callosities”, are covered in hundreds of white whale lice. Unlike the lice that ruined your life during grade school, whale lice are tiny crustaceans in the family Cyamidae. They pay rent for their ride by feeding on dead skin and damaged tissue, which is beneficial to their host. Much like our fingerprints, every right whale has its own unique callosity pattern, which can help researchers identify individual animals.
For more amazing clips of marine life, check out Hudson’s YouTube channel.
Top image: Screenshot