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Humpback whale closely approaches swimmer for a belly rub

Humpback whales are one of the most majestic and fascinating creatures on the planet. They possess an intelligence and level of understanding that is not far behind that of humans. In fact, as recently as 100,000 years ago, whales and dolphins were the most intelligent creatures alive, even surpassing our own ancestors. The humpbacks' communication is so sophisticated that we cannot decipher it ourselves. However, we do recognize that their extremely complex songs are loops of repeating sounds that may last as long as 20 minutes and can echo through the water for hundreds of miles. Scientists have included recordings of their songs on the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft that are currently traveling through space beyond our own solar system. The humpback whales are a mix of beauty and mystery like no other creatures. Whales are the biggest animals to inhabit our planet, ever. Even the long extinct dinosaurs were not as large as our whales. Their evolution into the most massive creatures to ever live defies much of what we know about science and bio mechanics. The more we learn about them, the more we realize how much we do not yet understand. And of all the whales, the humpbacks are the ones that we recognize most readily and the ones we identify with the most. Their wonderful, leaping breaches are a true spectacle, and their songs haunting and endearing songs captivate us completely. To have the privelege of swimming beside one and looking it in the eye is unforgettable. This humpback whale is a youngster, and at about 20 tons, it is far from its full size. It is still reliant on its mother for milk and she rests on the bottom of this bay, about 20m below. She will rise to the surface every 10-15 minutes for air. The baby, needing air more frequently will remain above and will play and frolic while she sleeps. A small group of whale enthusiasts has slipped into the water to observe the pair from a respectful distance but the curious baby decided to come closer for a look. To their extreme delight, she came within arm's length and stared straight at them with a lingering look as she slowly rolled on her side for a leisurly pass. The result was what seemed to be a request for a belly rub, much as you would expect from a large dog. As tempting as it might be to touch this whale, watchful guides are always present in the water to remind people that there are rules that must be respected. We are guests in their domain and physical contact must be avoided. For those who met this playful and curious whale, it was a moment that they will remember forever.
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