ABC News’ David Wright reports:
There is whale watching, and then there is this.
A kayaker came up close and personal with a pod of blue whales off the coast of California in a once-in-a-lifetime experience, all captured on camera.
Blue whales are the planet’s largest creatures, bigger than any dinosaur. Their hearts alone are the size of a compact car.
They can capsize boats with the flick of a flipper.
But Rick Coleman, the kayaker who took on the whales, says it was worth the risk.
“Oh, they are just a beautiful, magnificent creature,” Coleman said. “So we’re just blessed these last few weeks that we get to go out there and share the same water as them.”
Coleman captured the footage of the blue whales while kayaking about four miles off the coast of King Harbor in California’s Redondo Beach Oct. 8.
He got so close to the sea animals, which can measure 100 feet and weigh up to 150 tons, that he could literally reach out and touch one.
“This really got my heart pounding,” he said of the encounter.
Blue whales, the giants of the deep, are now an endangered species, hunted nearly to extinction.
Sightings used to be rare off the Southern California coast where Coleman made his encounter, but that has changed dramatically in the past five years.
It remains to be seen whether the increase is a sign that their population has grown, or just that the migration patterns of the existing species have changed.
Coleman’s video showing the whales feeding and swimming off the California coast has gone viral and excited the whale watching community.
It’s also raised concerns among those who say Coleman got too close to the dangerous, and endangered, animals.
“I would hope that by sharing this footage and our experience, it just inspires the public to love the whales even more,” Coleman said.