19th Annual Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest Natural World

A humpback whale calf sails through the emerald blue waters of Tonga, accompanied by its colossal mother and escort. The leviathans circle directly beneath me, as the calf begins to ascend towards the surface. The youngling needs to breathe much more often than the adults. I wave and do a fin pirouette, offering the newborn a playmate. It locks eyes and torpedoes towards me, intrigued by this interloper in the underwater kingdom. I tuck back my freediving fins & snap the shot, as its pectoral fin passes inches from my camera. A split second later, mom surfaces with the escort to usher the baby away from this bubble blowing stranger.   When you look into a humpback whale's eye, it looks back into you. Its sentience & consciousness are clear. The sheer magnitude seamlessly blended with grace. It is truly a humbling experience to share the ocean with these gentle giants.

Photo Detail
Date Taken: 08.2019
Date Uploaded: 11.2021
Photo Location: Tonga
Camera: DMC-GH4
Copyright: © Sean Steininger