Images courtesy of www.capetownsailing.co.za
This is definitely one of those 'perfectly timed' photographs. A tourist from Botswana was happily taking holiday snaps off the coast of South Africa, when they saw a couple out on a romantic boating trip. The tourist then captured a huge 'Kodak moment' when a 40-tonne southern right whale breached and slammed onto the deck of the yacht (the 'Intrepid').
A little trivia for the environmentalists - the Southern Right Whale is an endangered species, and can grow to around 15 metres (50ft) long and weigh 60 tonnes. The one in the picture is only about 10 metres. Whales are a common sight in the Atlantic Ocean off the Western Cape coast at this time of year as they come close to the shore to breed.
The 59-year old skipper, Ralph Mothes, who was on board with his girlfriend (and business partner) 50-year old Paloma Werner, dove for cover while the mighty beast thrashed about for a short while on the boat's deck. The incident happened at "Hermanus" (around 80 miles east of Cape Town).
Both came out of the incident uninjured, but the same cannot be said for the yacht - although there was no structural damage to the hull (luckily it was made of steel and not fibreglass) It suffered a broken mast and crushed coach roof and side rigging.
After using the engine to return to Table Bay, Miss Werner said, "It really was quite incredible but very scary. The whale was about the same size as the boat... We'd spotted it about 100 metres away and thought that was the end of it. Then suddenly it was right up beside us... I assumed it would go underneath the boat but instead it sprang out of the sea. We were very lucky to get through it, as the sheer weight of the thing was huge... There were bits of skin and blubber left behind, and the mast was wrecked. It brought down the rigging too...".
Experts say that the whale was most likely uninjured, perhaps just a little bruised. Now that's really a "Whale of a Time"!!