Two people barely escaped with their lives when a 33-foot-long, 40-ton southern right whale leaped from the waters off the coast of South Africa, hitting and landing atop their small yacht. According to The Telegraph, a couple luckily survived the leaping whale as it crash-landed on their boat, hitting and destroying the mast and crushing the top of the yacht. The whale then slipped back into the water. The yacht limped back to port.
Robert Mothes, 59, and Paloma Werner, 50, were helpless as the leaping leviathan hit the boat squarely, landed on top of the boat, and began thrashing around. Werner told the Telegraph that they had “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.”
Photos (via Fox News) of the aftermath show extensive damage to the top of the couple’s yacht. According to Werner, the whale left bits of skin and blubber behind, so the massive animal did not escape its encounter with the boat completely unscathed.
Werner told BBC News that they had first seen the whale about an hour before it jumped aboard the boat. Southern right whales are known for their poor eyesight, it seems, and, according to Werner, they had their engine off, so the whale could not hear them either.
Mothes and Werner wrote on their Facebook page, “Cape Town Sailing Academy”: “While taking some pictures we decided to had back when a southern right whale, between 11 – 14 m long breach about 100 meters away from us and then suddenly breach about 10 meters from us and then on us. We where sailing had no engine of so we could not even take any action. Scary!”
Werner told BBC News that she heard her partner yell and turned just in time to see the whale breach the water’s surface and land on the boat. “Instinctively,” she said, “I took cover as the mast came crashing down. I saw my partner, Ralph, dive for cover behind the yacht’s wheel. Then the whale slid down the side of the boat and back into the water.”
She noted that the boat wasn’t damaged so badly as to take on water, and the couple headed back to land. She says she saw the whale reappear as they made their way to shore.
The photos of the whale were apparently caught on camera by tourists.
Damages to the yacht may cost at much as $13,000 to repair. Werner said, “When we got back to land, I realised how lucky we were to have survived.”