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.
"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."
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.