Whale almost swallows surfer in Santa Cruz


Their mouths wide open, they shot up to the surface, taking in huge mouthfuls of fish and water. The massive creatures have been seen unusually close to the Northern California coast.

"It's very impressive, any way you count it," said Michele Sousa, senior biologist at Aquarium of the Pacific. "They were forge-feeding, bubble-net feeding, where they go underneath the schooling fish, blow bubbles, and then circulate as a group going up."

Experts at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach said it is all because their food is closer to shore.

"We don't know why the food is shifting, but we know that it is right now," said Sousa. "With that shift you are going to see a large variety of animals following it."

Whale sightings are nothing new in Southern California, but they are an awe-inspiring sight. Southland kayakers were able to touch blue whales, getting an up close shot of the world's largest mammal.

A wide variety of whales pass through the Pacific Ocean, and most people see them through the safety of a boat.

But the close encounter is having officials warn beachgoers to stay 100 yards away or they will face a fine.

Experts say all the attention could affect the whales' feeding, and most importantly put people at risk.

"These are wild animals and they can be very unpredictable," said Sousa. "When you are looking at an animal that can be anywhere up to 50 feet in length and weigh 80,000 pounds, you need to be very careful when you are in their environment."

So far nobody has been hurt in any of the close encounters. One boat has been damaged when it hit a whale.

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