By Josh Saunders
Kayaking brothers share incredible encounter with migrating whales only a hand’s reach away in an unforgettable moment many would krill for.
Bill and Tom Chater, 40 and 41, from Stanley, Falkland Islands, paddled half a mile from shore to view the magnificent 50-foot-long and 60-tonne sea creatures.
The brothers say they were within hand’s reach of one of the South Right whales and watched in awe as another majestically splashed its rear fin out of the water.
Despite the whales living off plankton, krill and copepods, they say the experience was ‘daunting’ due their size but that it was an ‘unforgettable’ experience.
Bill, a trainee helicopter pilot, said: “It was very exciting, something I have always hoped to be able to do.
“The reality is a bit more daunting as these beasts are about fifty feet long and weigh 60 tons.
“We were half a mile offshore with these monsters of the deep and very cold sea temperatures and were well aware of an increased wind being forecast and no other boats nearby.
“I could have touched the one that approached my kayak and Tom had one about six feet under his kayak with a second one coming straight towards him.
“They eat krill so we had no concerns initially over our safety however they are big.
“Their behaviour suggested courtship as they were very active in the water although we never saw any hard evidence of this.
“They were not feeding and appeared unconcerned by our presence despite being well known for their curious nature.
“We were cautious and had a few moments of concern as due to their activity and seeming lack of awareness of us we had to work hard to maintain distance at times.
“Incredibly exciting and intimidating at the same time.”
Southern Right Whales are part of the baleen family, named after the comb-like fringe on their upper jaw used to filter food into their mouths.
Baleens are largest species of whale and there are believed to be 10,000 Southern Right Whales spread throughout the seas of the southern hemisphere.
The brothers seized their opportunity to paddle among the massive sea creatures after sightings of them were spoken about locally – the pair caught the incredible shots with drone pilot Ian France and photography Derek Pettersson.
Bill said: “Unusually there have been Southern Right Whales close to Stanley for several days.
“Normally with this breed of whale, occasional single whales are seen probably during their normal migration.
“With them hanging around it brought the possibility of getting close, on the day however it was a spur of the moment decision when we saw a group of four animals about half a mile from shore.
“The opportunity was too good to miss though and we just cracked on.
“It was a truly incredible encounter and we would do it again tomorrow.”