Argentine photographer Maxi Jonas has been shooting wildlife for more than two decades. But he never dreamed of capturing his latest footage: a drone video of a southern right whale lazily playing with a stand-up paddle (SUP) board as its rider quietly sits, watching the giant say hello in its unexpected way.
Right place, right time produced drone video of whale-human encounter
Jonas took the video on a September 1 flight over the bay of Puerto Madryn, a city about halfway down Argentina’s coast. A professional photographer for Argentine nation press agency Télam, Jonas has filmed the majestic mammals many times as part of his passion for wildlife photography, but of never one undertaking such astonishing interaction with a human. In posting the encounter on his Twitter account, Jonas deservedly boasted, “I think today I made the best whale drone video of my life.”
In providing background to Télam about the video, Jonas describes it as a result of converging coincidences wrapped together with amazing luck.
That the whale would venture into the bay while his drone was overhead was astonishing enough. But what were the odds that the SUP would be in the same area, much less a shared camera frame to boot? And how improbable was it that the whale decided to initiate contact that people are forbidden to make on their own.
“There is a provincial law that prohibits people making contact with the animals,” Jonas explains. “But in this case, it was the whale that approached the board to play as if it were a pet.”
Drone footage captures lottery-odds coincidences converging
Also surprising was the reaction of the SUP rider, who calmly sat and watched as the whale gently bumped the tail of her board with its nose, then lightly brushed it as the mammal swam by, below, and in front of it. Given the long odds against the charming meeting ever taking place (much less being caught by a drone), it’s little wonder Jonas’s posts was viewed thousands of times on the first day alone.
Coincidence surrounding the gem didn’t end with the drone’s flight, however. One of the people who contacted the photographer via Twitter was Analía Giorgetti – the woman who’d been on the SUP. She told Jonas “it was only the second time that she got on a board,” and had decided to try again because September 1 was her birthday.
The passing whale gave her quite a gift for her sporting effort.
“At one point I felt that she touched me, and it was then that I took out my cell phone to record her when she passed by,” Giorgetti told Télam. “I also realized that there was a drone above us… The photographer captured the moment in a magical way.”
Still, she urged people against flocking out in search of the same, highly improbable circumstances that gave her a birthday she’ll never forget.
“I would not like the bay to fill with people going out to look for whales,” she said. “No one should disturb them.”
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