Stunning images capture rare "megapod" of humpback whales

Rare megapod of whales seen feeding off Austr...

Coastal tour boat operators in Australia were treated to a rare spectacle last week as more than 100 humpback whales set upon a swirling ball of baitfish. The mass aggregation or megapod of whales was spotted by Simon Miller, owner of Sapphire Coastal Adventures, and his team on Thursday off the coast of Bermagui in New South Wales, on Australia's southeast coast.

An aerial image from video shot by the Sapphire Coastal Adventures tour boat operator shows a "megapod" of more than 100 humpback whales feeding on baitfish off the coast of Bermagui, in New South Wales state, southeast Australia, on September 8, 2021. Sapphire Coastal Adventures/Reuters

"The big smell, fish everywhere, whales busting up through it. Now the whales on the outside were slapping their tails, sorting of herding the bait in together and then the whales coming up and sort of busting up all over the place," Miller told the Reuters news agency. "It's pretty incredible stuff."

He and his team spotted the whales — and captured their behavior in stunning drone video — in a patch of water that humpbacks frequent around this time of year as they make their return to Antarctica from the warmer waters to the north, where they raise their young.

"Last year, this exact same week, we had a mass aggregation of humpback whales," Miller told Reuters. "What that is, is where you get a megapod and it's where you've got more than 20 whales at the time feeding on a particular area."

A humpback whale with its mouth wide open to catch baitfish as it breaches is seen off the coast of Bermagui, New South Wales, Australia, September 9, 2021, in an image provided by the Sapphire Coastal Adventures tour company. Sapphire Coastal Adventures/Reuters

But in almost two decades of plying waters around Bermagui, Miller said he'd never seen such a grouping of the sea mammals until last year.

"We've been witnessing whales feeding on the south coast for maybe, like, 18, 19 years, since I've been doing it, 19 years. But we've never witnessed them feeding in such huge aggregations before," he said.

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