Exploration

Diving Into a Humpback Whale Fight: Photos

Humpback whales are known to be one of the most majestic mammals on Earth, but what happens when a diver winds up between them?

Few animals are as majestic and awe-inspiring as whales. Their sheer size, coupled with their underwater elegance, makes seeing just a hint of one breaking the ocean's surface a life goal for many of us. Among the more well-known of these glorious giants is the musical, acrobatic humpback. "This photo was taken in August off of the island of Vavau in the Kingdom of Tonga," says photographer Karim Iliya, "moments after this juvenile humpback whale took a sharp turn to avoid smashing into me.

"The babies are these curious clumsy little creatures that can fill you with so much joy that your heart feels like it will explode from your chest," Iliya said.

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Not every interaction is so calm and peaceful. When you swim with whales, sometimes you get a playful juvenile, but other times you can find yourself in the middle of an all out frenzy. This is what happened to Iliya after jumping into the water, not knowing battle-scarred adult male humpbacks were fighting over the right to mate with the lone female.

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"Four large male humpback whales emerged, two of them broke off and started smashing into each other blowing bubbles, tails whipping around," Iliya said. "They came closer and closer all the while fighting, a 5-meter-long tale whipped near my face, and the thought occurred to me that I would be pulverized between these two school bus sized animals."

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"Looking back on the images that I had taken I see that the whales were looking at me, even as they fought. It is a true testament to the gentleness of these giants that they would take the time and effort to avoid crushing this tiny little creature before them. "

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"The thing that I loved most about photographing humpback whales is the level of interaction that you have with them. They are highly intelligent creatures with distinct personalities and will convey a range of emotions and attitude like curiosity and playfulness, or even annoyance."

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