In a rare occurrence, a massive humpback whale has been spotted several times this week in the Hudson River near midtown Manhattan. The whale was caught on camera in front of the Statue of Liberty and other New York landmarks as it paid a visit to the city’s harbour.
Bjoern Kils, a photojournalist who runs the New York Media Boat to transport news crews and holds tours, photographed the whale in the New York Harbor and the images went viral.
Kils told the BBC News that he regularly sees other marine life, such as seals in the harbour. However, it is rare for whales to come in from the ocean. The last one he spotted was in 2016.
“It was exciting to see,” he told the news outlet. “It’s definitely one of my better pictures.”
“While out birding, I spotted a whale in the Hudson River near the Battery Park ferry station,” another photographer Claudine Williams wrote on Twitter. “It surfaced again 10 minutes later approximately a half mile south of there! I’m in shock!”
Video footage showed the whale spouting water as it made its way down the river with iconic NYC tourist sights in the background. Andres Javier, who captured the incredible moment wrote it was “so cool” to witness the visitor by the cityscape.
Spotted: A humpback whale in the Hudson River! 🐳
Whale sightings have increased in recent years in NY’s waterways. Reasons for the uptick may include an improvement in local water quality, & an abundance of food sources like Atlantic menhaden.
— NYC Parks (@NYCParks) December 8, 2020
Gotham Whale, a nonprofit that’s been collecting data on Atlantic whales since 2011, said the whale is likely to have visited the city seeking food. “The whale is most likely visiting due to the plentiful food available right now,” the group wrote on Twitter, and the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation agreed.
In another tweet, the group cautioned mariners to slow down and watch out for the whale so they don’t accidentally injure it with their boats.
“This whale is whale No. 89 and the first time we saw this whale was back in 2018,” Sarah Ryan Hudson, a citizen scientist with the organisation, told NBC 4 New York.
The US Coast Guard confirmed reports of the sighting, but said it would get involved only if the whale became entangled or otherwise became endangered. “We’re aware, but it’s pretty normal that we get whales out there,” Petty Officer Anthony Pappaly told Reuters.
“It’s a bit of a silver lining with Covid that there’s not much boat traffic out here, and the whale has a very good chance of getting out into the ocean,” Kils was quoted by the agency.
Whales have been seen in recent years in New York waters with some coming as close to shore as 550 yards from the beach in Rockaway, Queens. Back in 2016, another whale hung around the Hudson area for about a week, The Hill reported.