It was a close encounter with one of the ocean’s most awe-inspiring creatures that Howie Allen will never forget.
Allen was kayaking with his daughter in the water about a quarter mile from the beach in Lavallette, Ocean County, NJ Sunday morning when they came within 10-feet of a massive humpback whale. Allen quickly recorded the mesmerizing sight.
“It was just alarming when he came up behind us that last time,” said Allen, who estimates the whale was about 40-feet. “I had no idea what his plan was. Was he going to come underneath us and roll us?”
The humpback eventually swam off, but not before leaving its mark.
“The odor of that blow hole mist is just nasty,” Allen said. “It’s kind of like getting bathed in herring mist.”
The whale sighting was one of several over the weekend close to the Jersey coastline, including one near Mantoloking.
A crew member aboard the Cape May-Lewes Ferry also captured video of a humpback in the Delaware Bay last week.
Experts say the whales are migrating from the Caribbean to Canada. Some local whale-watching operators say they’re seeing more of the creatures closer to the Shore than normal.
“A lot of them are traveling with their calves that were born in early spring,” said Bob Schoelkopf, the Director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center.
As incredible to watch as the animals may be, Schoelkopf warns that boaters should keep their distance however.
“If there’s a calf under the mother, she’s going to be very protective,” he said. “She could knock a 20-foot boat out of the water with her tail. That’s how massive they are.”
Federal authorities recently issued a mariner alert about more whales being hit by ships along the east coast than normal for this time of year, possibly due to them coming closer to the Shore for food. Experts urge boaters to slow down.
“Stay clear of the animals,” Schoelkpf said. “Put your engine in neutral or turn it off and drift by and appreciate them that way.”
Humpback whales are federally protected animals. People who intentionally harass them with boats may be fined and even have their vessels seized.