'Extraordinary' minke whale encounter leaves boaters in awe – and holding their noses

'Extraordinary' minke whale encounter leaves boaters in awe – and holding their noses

Outdoors

'Extraordinary' minke whale encounter leaves boaters in awe – and holding their noses

Marine mammal enthusiasts off Newport Beach, Calif., learned first-hand Sunday why minke whales are often referred to as “stinky minkes.”

They also discovered that some of the coolest whale encounters can involve the littlest whales.

The accompanying video footage, captured by Mark Girardeau for Newport Coastal Adventure, shows a rare close encounter with a very curious minke whale measuring only 14 feet.

“Here he comes, no way… No way!” Girardeau exclaims as the whale surfaces just a few feet away. Girardeau’s tone abruptly changes as he remarks, “Hell, he stinks!”

The juvenile minke whale proceeded to spyhop, twirl, circle at least two vessels, and gaze at passengers in a manner uncharacteristic of a species known for its elusiveness.

“This behavior is unusual for a minke whale on our coast,” Alisa Schulman-Janiger, a Southern California-based researcher, told USA Today. “I’ve never see one be that friendly; that behavior is more like something a humpback whale will exhibit.”

Schulman-Janiger described the spy hopping behavior as “extraordinary.”

Girardeau was aboard the 36-foot Shearwater, and at times the tiny whale looked within touching range. Many of the passengers were kids, who used their smartphones to capture their own footage.

“They were all very into it, running around the boat each time it came up on the other side,” Girardeau said.

The whale also visited a larger vessel, Newport Legacy, and is pictured (top image) in an image captured via drone by Chelsea Mayer. (Second image is via Mark Girardeau.)

Minke whales are the second-smallest baleen whales, behind pygmy right whales, and can measure to about 25 feet as adults.

They’re the smallest whales in the Northern Hemisphere. Scientists estimate minke whales to number only about 369 off the U.S. West Coast.

Their diet consists of small fish such as schooling anchovies, shrimp-like krill, and copepods. Perhaps this is what helped earn them the “stinky minke” nickname.

Said Girardeau: “It definitely smelled with every breath.”

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