California

‘Mind-blowing’ photo captures humpback whale with a California sea lion in its mouth

A whale-watching trip on Monterey Bay led to a “mind-blowing” photo of a sea lion momentarily trapped in the mouth of a lunging humpback whale. The sea lion later escaped: Humpback whales feed on tiny krill.
A whale-watching trip on Monterey Bay led to a “mind-blowing” photo of a sea lion momentarily trapped in the mouth of a lunging humpback whale. The sea lion later escaped: Humpback whales feed on tiny krill. Screengrab from Instagram

Wildlife photographer Chase Dekker says he’s seen a lot of “crazy stuff” but never something like the action captured in his latest viral photo, KRON reports.

“Just the other day I witnessed something out on Monterey Bay I had never seen before,” Dekker wrote on Instagram.

“While the humpbacks were lunge-feeding on a school of anchovies, a sea lion apparently didn’t jump out of the way fast enough and got trapped inside the whale’s mouth!” he continued.

The sea lion later escaped the whale and swam away, Dekker wrote.

Humpbacks are baleen whales, meaning they don’t have teeth and instead strain seawater for krill, plankton and small fish, such as anchovies.

He shot the photo while on a trip with Sanctuary Cruises Whale Watching out of Moss Landing, which also posted the photo on its Facebook page.

“There’s a lot of people on a boat who have never even seen a whale,” Dekker said, KRON reported. “So the fact that they get to see something so amazing, something I’ve never seen in all my years doing this … it’s like, it’s mind-blowing.”

Dekker wrote on Instagram that the whale continued to feed after the sea lion escaped, suggesting it also came through unscathed. He added that it must have been a “strange experience” for both animals.

“That sea lion had the true ‘Jonah Experience!’” Dekker wrote on Instagram.

He says some people don’t believe the photo’s real, accusing him of creating it in Photoshop, KRON reported.

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Don Sweeney has been a newspaper reporter and editor in California for more than 25 years. He has been a real-time reporter based at The Sacramento Bee since 2016.
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