Humpback Whale Attempts To Eat Two Kayakers in California

Written by Cindy Rasmussen
Updated: September 7, 2022
Image Credit Fritz Geller-Grimm / Creative Commons
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You can charter a whale watching tour to see the massive creatures from a distance, or you can kayak up close and personal with whales. But an incident off the coast got way too personal when a humpback whale attempts to eat two kayakers in California!

The video was shot by Sam Mcmillan of Atascadero, CA who was out whale watching himself. He was taking photos of several humpback whales that were feeding in the area. They were all in the San Luis Obispo Bay which is half-way between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Two women, Julie McSorely and Liz Cottriel, were kayaking off of Avila beach, in a bright yellow tandem kayak. A peaceful scene of the kayakers in the bay with swarms of gulls flying around. You can hear them chattering as they look for food. The camera pans right where you see another women in a red kayak who is causally looking around.

Seconds later the water ripples and immediately an enormous whale emerges from the water, mouth open and the tandem kayak and the women inside of it appear to be swallowed! The whale goes under and all you can see is the floating yellow kayak upside down, the women are gone! Did the humpback whale attempt to eat the two kayakers in California? A few seconds later the video cuts out with a shot of the one woman in the red kayak back paddling and the swarm of seagulls making a raucous.

The good news is the women were safe and unharmed. The giant humpback whale just happened to breach the surface right under the kayak where there was a huge bait ball of fish it was trying to eat. Humpback whales do not intentionally eat people, this incident was purely the result of a kayaker being in the wrong place while a humpback whale was feeding on its preferred prey of plankton and small fish that it concentrates in small areas before taking giant gulps of water.

Both women were certainly frightened and alarmed but share how they remember seeing the inside of the whale’s mouth, being thrown from their kayak and then seconds later popping up next to each other.

The news report shared that Julie McSorely had been out whale watching before. She was excited to invite her friend along. Her friend, Liz Cottriel didn’t want to go! According to CBC Radio news Liz said, ‘No, I don’t like the ocean. I’m scared of sharks. I’m scared of anything I can’t see in the water.’ But Julie convinced her it would be safe and fun!

Humpback whales come to feed along the shores of California from late April to early December. Although they are enormous animals their diet consists of some of the smallest animals of krill, anchovies, and sardines.

The kayakers should have been more cautious when they saw the swarms of seagulls. The gulls often circle above the areas the whales choose to eat. Humpback Whales can get to be 48-62 feet long and weigh 40-100 tons! The one in the video of the humpback whale that attempts to eat two kayakers in California was probably a juvenile whale as it looked to be a bit smaller. Still an extremely scary situation for all!

Do Humpback Whales Normally Try To Eat People?

Humpback whales are filter-feeders, meaning that they only eat very tiny crustaceans and fish. They do this by swimming through or lunging up through schools of tiny fish with their mouths wide open. The back of their throat is a sieve. Water flows through and the fish or shrimp are trapped and swallowed. Even if a Humpbacked whale wanted to eat a person, it would not be possible. It is likely that this whale did not see the yellow kayak and was as surprised by getting a mouthful of boat and human as the person was. No doubt, a terrifying experience for everyone!

*The following video may be disturbing and contains some foul language.

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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness about conservation by teaching others about the amazing animals we share the planet with. I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with a degree in Elementary Education and I am a former teacher. When I am not writing I love going to my kids' soccer games, watching movies, taking on DIY projects and running with our giant Labradoodle "Tango".

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