A breaching whale is a powerful sight, even if most of us have only seen one through the lens of a TV or on a computer screen.
Notably, one insurance company has incorporated the image in its logo and advertising.
The right, humpback and sperm whales are the most well known jumpers, with a humpback breach being the most widely documented. Other types — such as fin whales — exhibit the same behavior, but are rarely seen.
A research assistant with the Spanish conservation group CIRCE (Conservation, Information and Research on Cetaceans), captured a series of breaches by a fin whale in the Strait of Gibraltar on May 22.
“This fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) breached completely out of the water three times … make sure you watch it until the end,” reads the group’s posting on Facebook.
The video is only 1:19, so it’s worth the wait.
Next to the blue whale, the fin whale is the second-largest mammal in the world. It has a distinct ridge along its back behind the dorsal fin, which gives it the nickname "razorback.”
Fin whales have a very unusual feature: The lower right jaw is bright white and the lower left jaw is black.
Some scientists have speculated that fin whales circle schools of fish with the white side facing the prey and frightening them into denser schools that are easier for the whale to catch. The fin whale, like other baleen whales, strains its food from the water through baleen plates.
Hunted by commercial whalers until the last century for oil, meat and baleen, fin whales in the North Atlantic are listed as endangered. Some populations are faring better as a result. Like other large whales, fin whales are threatened by environmental change, including habitat loss, toxics and climate change.
Commercial whaling remains a threat to fin whales. After a two-year hiatus, Iceland resumed commercial fin whaling in 2013 with a quota of 184 whales. The majority of the whale meat ends up in Japanese markets.