Dive Footage Catches Humpback Whale Taking a Nap

Gentle giant drifts and naps, offering rare peek at the sleep life of the enormous creature.

A research dive team called Panga MX caught some amazing footage in Mexico of a humpback whale slumbering straight up-and-down in the water, with its tail facing the surface.

In the video below, an abbreviated version of a 20-minute observation made by the team, the whale can be seen gently bobbing in the water. Eventually it drifts toward the surface in a horizontal position, floating on its back (or stomach, depending on which side a whale considers "up").

click to play video

Whales have an interesting trick when sleeping -- they do it with half of their brain still open for business, as DNews reported in this 2011 video recounting a study of whale sleep that included captivating footage of a pod of sperm whales snoozing.

As the DNews video notes, whales nap in fairly brief intervals, because they need to surface for air. Land mammals such as humans breathe involuntarily, but undersea mammals such as whales and dolphins have to consciously choose to breathe. Sleeping with a shut-down brain, of course, would make that choice a difficult one to make. That's where the half-their-brain thing comes into play. A whale may be "sleeping" but it isn't so down for the count -- brain-function-wise -- that it won't be conscious of the need to come up for air.

One look at a humpback whale makes it easy to see why they need their rest. It must be tiring just being a humpback whale. They're enormous creatures that can grow to nearly 60 feet long and weigh a whopping 40 tons.

Humpback whale

Boat tourists and whale enthusiasts got an amazing surprise last weekend when a rare sight popped up -- or breached up! -- out of the water. A pod of pilot whales numbering about 50, including whale moms and calves, graced the waters off Dana Point, in Orange County, Calif. The pilot whale sighting was a rarity for those particular waters. A fairly common occurrence in the 1980s, it's been 18 years since the last sighting of pilot whales in the area, according to the Orange County Register.

Moms Live Longer to Care for Sons' Young

Luckily, the folks from

Captain Dave's Dolphin and Whale Safari

boat tours and sightseeing were in the area and captured these creatures as they made their return to old haunts. Here a mom and calf give ocean tourists a thrill.

Surfacing ... the blowhole is easily visible.

A Whale with a Human Voice

This view from underwater captures the majesty of mother and child.

How to Save Stranded Whales

Pilot whales eat primarily shrimp, but they'll dine on other kinds of fish, too. They're known to be very social creatures. Male pilot whales can grow up to be 25 feet long and weigh around three tons.

Sonar Noise Behind Whale Deaths

School's in session! Pilot whale calves are born just under 5 feet long and will weigh in the neighborhood of 135 pounds. They get milk from their moms for nearly two years.

The whales did not seem at all skittish about getting close to tour boats.

Distinct Humpback Whale Populations Found in North Pacific

It's unclear at this time exactly why the pod of pilot whales chose now to return to a place they'd seemingly left behind long ago. And only time will tell if they choose to make the Orange County coast a regular swimming ground again.

PHOTOS: Sharks, Marine Mammals Hang in Paradise