While diving along South America’s eastern coast, diver and undersea specialist on “National Geographic Explorer” Justin Hofman came across a southern right whale and her calf — one of the rarest marine mammals. Hofman and National Geographic were granted special permission to swim with these gentle giants, and captured his experience on video as he cautiously swam with these majestic creatures.
“Amazingly enough, we were given permission to swim with southern right whales at Península Valdés. It’s kind of hard to describe what it feels like to snorkel towards a 50-foot whale that is potentially protecting its newborn calf,” Hofman said in the video. “Your heart is in your throat to say the least, and I got closer, the calf actually come towards us.”
As one of the rarest marine mammal species, southern right whales have had a remarkable success story. Thanks to international protection in 1949, southern right whales bounced back from near extinction due to extreme whaling for three previous centuries. Today, several thousand southern right whales are believed to live off the coasts of New Zealand, South America, and Africa. Even though their size — ranging from 45 to 55 feet as adults—makes the southern right whale hard to miss, little is known of these whales since sightings are rare and populations are so small. Videos like this one by National Geographic allow scientists and the public to gain a better understanding of these gentle giants.
Southern right whales are listed as Endangered on the Endangered Species Act, and present day threats include fishing, entanglement in fishing gear, and ship strikes.
Oceana works to protect the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale from bycatch and seismic airgun testing. You can learn more about our work with North Atlantic right whales and other whale species here. While this diver was granted permission to closely encounter these whales, Oceana discourages the public from interacting with whales and other marine mammals in the wild.
Check out the video below to see these beautiful creatures: