Isn't this a magnificent photograph? It’s by National Geographic photographer Brian Skerry, who has a feature on southern right whales – the kind we often see here off the Eastern Cape coast – in the October edition of the magazine.
This shot happened as Brian was standing on the ocean floor off New Zealand when a bus-sized whale came in and gently inspected his assistant, who was standing just a few feet away. "My heart was beating out of my chest," Brian said but he got the shot and the photo of that encounter has since become an Internet sensation.
Brian is more than a photographer, he’s also an ecologist and on his website, he warns that our oceans are in trouble.“There are some serious problems out there that I believe are not clear to many people. My hope is to continually find new ways of creating images and stories that both celebrate the sea yet also highlight environmental problems. Photography can be a powerful instrument for change.”
We have the real thing right here in South Africa. Only a month or so ago, we were sitting at Enrico’s in Plett, which has the most amazing views across the bay to Robberg. It was one of those clear, sunny winter Saturday afternoons and we counted close to a dozen whales swimming just a few hundred metres out to sea, truly an awe-inspiring sight.
We’ve seen whales by the busload in our region this winter but who of us ever gets the chance to get this close? It’s only thanks to professional like Brian that we know what these giants look like underwater.
He's never seen our wonderful sea life but is keen to. When I contacted him, he replied the same day via e-mail: “I have never visited South Africa, but have a great interest in doing so!”