Animals

By Jacob King


This adorable calf his having a whale of a time, smiling and dancing while playing in rising air bubbles.

In a rare series of pictures taken by photographer by Renee Capozzola, 47, the baby humpback twists and turns in a cloud of bubbles with its mouth wide open in a beaming ‘smile’.

Renee Capozzola/Mercury Press

Biology teacher Renee was visiting the island of Mo’orea, in French Polynesia, to photograph the whales when she came across the unlikely scene of the youngster playing in the bubbles.

She was delighted when he realised she had captured the calf looking so happy and overjoyed.

Renee said: “In my opinion, the calf seemed to be playing in the bubbles and is the happiest looking whale I have ever seen.

“I was extremely lucky to witness such a rare behaviour.

“Since taking this picture, I have communicated with several other professional underwater photographers who regularly photograph humpback whales and all of them said this is something they have not seen.

Renee Capozzola/Mercury Press

“I also haven’t seen any other pictures like this before.

“I had gone to Mo’orea to photograph the whales, so I was so happy when I managed to shoot these pictures.

“I was extremely excited when I saw what I had captured.

“As soon as I was back on the boat, I reviewed the images on the back of my camera and was delighted to see that I had managed to get the entire animal in my frame along with the fluke of the mother in the lower right-hand corner.

“I was with three other photographers on the boat and none of them captured the type of image I did.

“I was snorkelling with a small group of three other photographers and we were dropped into the ocean with a guide just above a mother and calf who were resting on the bottom, over 100 feet down.

Renee Capozzola/Mercury Press

“Then the guide told us the calf was swimming up and I got my camera ready to shoot.

“A few seconds later, I could see that the calf had its mouth wide open, around a huge cloud of bubbles created by its mother still resting below and was coming straight up at me.

“I then quickly turned my camera vertically to get the calf in my frame and fired off three or four shots as the calf quickly ascended, keeping pace with the rising bubbles from its mother.”

Renee purchased her first underwater camera in 2014 and had visited the island of Mo’orea to photograph the whales in the past but wasn’t as successful as she was in September 2017.

Although the mum-of-two originally thought that the calf was playing she has also questioned whether it was learning to feed.

Renee said: “The encounter passed very quickly as the calf then swam on the surface.

Renee Capozzola/Mercury Press

“As humans, I don’t think we can definitively conclude what animals are always thinking or doing, and it’s possible the calf was learning to feed or do something else.

“It’s also likely that play, and learning are one in the same with this young animal, just as they are with human babies.

“I had visited Mo’orea in September 2016 as well but did not have any good encounters during that trip.

“These humpback whales migrate from Antarctica to French Polynesia to mate and give birth and are there between the months of August and the first of November, with September being the best month to go.

“During this time the adult whales do not feed – only the calves nurse from their mothers.”