Published August 27, 2013
One lucky kayaker held on tight as she watched a 40-foot, 80,000-pound humpback whale surface right next to her in Monterey Bay, California.
A stunned Karen Hatch watched as the massive mammal came to the surface and swam away to meet up with a fellow whale.
"The whale came to the surface next to Karen for only about two seconds," marine biologist and photographer Giancarlo Thomae told SFGate.com. Thomae witnessed the event and was able to snap a photograph of the close encounter.
"I saw a humpback whale come up 50 times in a row last week...I told Karen Hatch about it and we headed out in kayaks," he said.
Hatch of Kayak Connection out of Moss Landing and Thomae visited the spot popular for whale-watching as the excess of plankton, salmon and other whale food favorites attracts the animals.
Federal law prohibits whale watchers from approaching the marine animals within 100 yards. However, it has become common practice to float silently in the water and wait for the whales to approach you.
Hatch told SFGate.com that her "heart was doing flip-flops" and that she had the thrill of a lifetime.