Photos show humpback whales breaching, possibly reacting to 4.7 magnitude earthquake near Hollister

MOSS LANDING, Calif. (KGO) -- Tourists aboard a boat off Moss Landing got a whale of a show seconds after the Hollister area had a 4.7 magnitude earthquake.

Seven humpback whales suddenly breached in unison, surprising even a naturalist on the boat. Photos taken by the owner of Blue Ocean Whale Watch will be a valuable tool for researchers to learn more about how whales react to earthquakes.

The data from Kate Cummings' camera matched the time of the 12:42 p.m. earthquake.

Katlyn Taylor was the naturalist aboard the tour boat.

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"I think the whales all just started jumping out of the water as a reaction to it. I don't know if they were trying to check in with each other or if they were just startled. It's kind of hard to say at this point," she said.

Although dramatic photos were captured, no video was taken of the whales breaching. It happened quickly and lasted only about three or four seconds, so people were caught off-guard.

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The breaching started less than 30 seconds after the earthquake was initially felt on land. The sea was calm, and even passengers on the boat had no idea there had been an earthquake. It's believed the whales heard a roaring sound at a low frequency.

"Everybody on board was just freaking out," Taylor said. "Their minds were blown because we were fairly close to two whales. They were very mellow, and all of a sudden, they were both flying out of the water at the same time so everyone on board was flabbergasted."

Other whales in the immediate vicinity were also breaching.

Taylor said, as a marine biologist, this is likely the first time researchers will be able to study the cause of the whales' behavior in reaction to an earthquake. There already is ample evidence that other animals, such as dogs and cats, react to earthquakes, sometimes even sensing them before humans do.
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