18th Annual Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest Natural World
Circle of Life

When you look a humpback whale in the eye, it looks back. You are struck by the realization that this is a sentient being. It is an otherworldly experience to share the ocean with these gentle giants, whose measurements defy description. The Polynesian archipelago of Tonga has one of the world’s biggest whale populations. Tourists come from all over to marvel at their sheer size in person. Among the first countries to outlaw whaling, they have been a leader in whale and marine conservation.

Photo Detail
Date Taken: 09.2019
Date Uploaded: 11.2020
Photo Location: Tonga
Copyright: © Sean Steininger