Known to journey around 3,000 miles in a single year during their annual migration, humpback whales travel more than most other mammals. This means humpback whales get a little sleepy from time to time.
Earlier this year, Kieran Bown was out in the open waters on the Caribbean Sea conducting researcher in association with PangaMX when he and his team caught more than just a glimpse of a sleepy humpback. They captured the encounter on camera, allowing the whole world in on their incredible moments alongside a sleeping humpback whale.
At first they had no idea what they might be seeing because they only saw the tail of a whale sticking clear up out of the water and not moving at all. They panicked momentarily, worried that the whale might actually be injured or worse, dead. As they crept in for a closer look they took a collective sigh of relief, the whale was just fine, she was just catching some ZZZZ’s.
Bown wrote in an email to The Dodo, “The Humpback was sound asleep, vertically hoisted in the water with the fluke out of the water. With the whale being so relaxed, the fluke had fully flopped over and was acting as a sort of stabilizer at the surface. The whale was completely at peace in the water and remaining silent we floated and observed getting a great look at the giant.”
Judging by the images captured by the researchers they didn’t just stay at the surface of the water in the safe confines of their boat. Bown decided to strap on his handy go-pro camera and dive into the water for a closer look. Even after Bown was under the water the whale continued to sleep. It wasn’t until she needed to take a breath that she woke from her slumber and noticed the humans on stand-by.
This sleepy giant wasn’t too put off by the presence of humans.Instead after twisting her body around just so to take a breath, she started to move her head closer towards Bown to get a better look. Bown writes, “I froze exactly where I was, I had never been approached by a whale before, only observed them as they swam by, it was as if she was checking us out.”
After stirring from her nap to take a big breath and check out her audience, the humpback whale simple dipped back down beneath the surface and started to doze off a little again before finally swimming off.
Humans and many other mammals are capable of breathing without any conscious thought; it’s an involuntary response to breath in and out. For humpback whales, breathing is a conscious act that they must think about in order to do. For this reason, whales (and dolphins) have interesting sleep patterns in order to avoid drowning. They actually only rest one side of their brain at a time so that they can still remember to come to the surface for a breath when neccisary.
Usually humpback whales sleep at night, but every once in a while they are caught dozing off during the daytime. Footage of sperm whales sleeping during the day has also been captured, in proof even giant marine life need an occasional nap to keep up with the day’s endless demands.
When is the last time you came face to face with a majestic humpback whale? Considering they live out in deep ocean waters while you and I live on land, our encounters are rare and limited. Those that have been lucky enough to come into contact with one of the world’s largest mammals all say the same thing; the experience was surreal, nothing short of amazing. Bown writes of the encounter, “It was an experience we would all never forget.”
Watch the full video clip of the remarkable experience here: