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Humpback whale offers magical moment in the bay

A last-minute decision to go dolphin watching led to local restaurateur Idan Greenberg capturing a spectacular video of a humpback whale near the boat.

The owner of Verdi Verdi café was out with Dolphin Safari when the encounter happened.

“As we headed out into the bay the crew said ‘we have spotted some dolphins’ and I thought yeah great whatever, but then they said ‘we have spotted a whale’ and I was like ‘oh wow’,” he said.

“We starting seeing the plume of smoke [air being expelled from the whale’s blowhole] in the distance, it was really amazing, next thing it did this dive.”

He explained everyone on board Dolphin Safari’s boat was waiting with baited breath trying to work out when it would resurface again, if it did at all.

The humpback whale did not disappoint.

“We saw it come up, disappear, come up, disappear and then I could hear my mother in law say it’s over here and I ran to the other side and that is when I saw it up close,” Mr Greenberg said.

“It came so close to the boat you could see its white fins.”

It was the first time Mr Greenberg had seen a whale in the wild.

“I can’t even describe it,” he said.

“I burst out laughing. I think it was the joy, the sheer joy of seeing this thing which you only ever see on television.”

“It was just amazing, you can’t even describe it in words and then it sinks in of course and you watch the footage again and it’s the kind of footage you always see that someone else has taken, but it was me, I saw that,” he exclaimed.

“It was a beautiful thing to see, I am very lucky.”

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The Bay of Gibraltar is becoming a popular viewing point for whale watchers, with two humpback whales having been spotted over the past few weeks.

Fiona Hesketh, manager and crewmember of Dolphin Safari, told GBC last week: “We think there are two whales in the bay, a large one and a smaller one, it’s the smaller one that seems to be coming to the surface more often.”

Although no one has confirmed that each sighting is of the same whale or its gender, this does not stop people getting attached to the mammals.

Dolphin Safari is calling the whale ‘Lisa’, while another dolphin watching company, Dolphin Adventure, is calling it ‘Humphrey’.

The last sighting of a humpback whale in the area was during the Easter weekend.

Since the sighting on Sunday, the crew at Dolphin Safari saw the whale again on Monday during two of its dolphin watching trips.

Rocio Espada, Marine Biologist at Dolphin Adventure, also saw the whale on Sunday and captured the moment.

humpback whale by Rocio Espada 2

Ms Espada is doing a PhD at the University of Seville and the information she collates on dolphins and now whales in the area will go towards her thesis. Her colleagues saw the whale on Monday and managed to video the moment also.

Both companies and some eagle-eyed photographers have spotted the whale for the past few weeks, with Jay Stars from Dolphin Safari videoing the moment the whale went underneath their boat to surface at the other side with his mobile phone.

Mrs Hesketh said: “It was the best footage of a whale I have ever seen.”

Dr Eric Shaw, from Gibraltar’s marine research and conservation trust, the Helping Hand, told the Chronicle: “It is not unusual to see a humpback whale in and around Gibraltar as they come in from the Atlantic to the Med Sea via the Strait.”

Dr Shaw also said the likely reason the humpback whales were here is that they are “following resources, but it is impossible to say as no one is monitoring it.”

He also noted that other baleen whales such as the minke whale have been in the area before, as have pilot whales and orcas.

He reminded the Chronicle of the days when there was a whaling station, La Ballenera, across the bay in Algeciras, which closed down in the 1960’s.

He said the whalers would not have travelled a great distance to capture whales and bring them back to the factory. In effect, they brought the factory to the whales instead.

Earlier this year, Customs officers filmed a humpback whale breaching just off the Rock.

Main photo by Rocio Espada.