That's what it felt like during my recent trip to Antarctica. A tail here, a fin there, and the occasional glimpse of a blow hole or mouth. My companions and I wanted to see more.
We were sitting in a small Zodiac boat in icy cold water watching mammals that are 50 feet long. What if one came up under the boat? I guess we trusted the whales knew what they were doing. They trusted we weren't going to harpoon them.
You might have seen photos of whales jumping out of the water. That's what we wanted to see. But these whales were feeding. Feeding humpbacks don't do that, which made watching them a challenge. The whales typically approach a large gathering of krill from below, then drive them towards the surface, with mouth open. The whale engulfs the krill, snaps its mouth shut, and squishes the water out. A tasty meal. (First three photos copyright Glen Gould.)
A humpback whale mouth. Photo courtesy of the Polar Star staff.