Destinations > Special Features > Interview with Cinematographer Michele Hall and filming in Cocos Island | Tanya Streeter; World Champion Freediver and her beloved Cayman Islands | Underwater Photography on Bali by Barbara Phua | Riau Archipelago, Alice Lee's favourite destination | Cenotes Diving with Sid Thaker | Dr. Alexander Mustard | Charlotte learns how to cave dive
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Jan 04 » Commercial Diving with Larry Goldberg | Sep 04 » Desert Safaris with Tanis & Said | Nov 04 » Liquid Oceans with Veruschka Matchett | Sep 04 » Stellar Sea Lions in Alaska with John Lachelt | Nov 04 » Humpback Whales in Alaska with John Lachelt |
Jan 05 » Tani Bell Church in Alaska | April 05 » The Rays of Cabu Pulmo, Mexico | April 05 » Art Sutch Underwater Photography
To this day John Lachelt has over 700 dives under his weight belt, just this year!
Humpback Whales get personal with Alaskan diver, underwater! by Tani Bell - Church.
Tani Bell - Church, (daughter of famed photographer Ron Church, the first American on the Cousteau Team) interviews John Lachelt, owner of Channel Dive Center in Juneau Alaska AGAIN! This time on Dungeness Crab hunting AND his amazing but true encounter with two Humpback Whales.
My buddy Harry Westlin and I used to dive very frequently, Harry was kind of an interesting guy because he was a "nervous Nellie" diver. He was one of those guys who was really cautious and careful, which was just fine.
So one day, late February, we loaded up my boat the “Mighty Katie Mermaid” and decided we were going to go acquire some Dungeness crab. We loaded up the boat and cruised up Saganauh Channel out by Shelter Island and then into Hand Trollers cove and decided to drop the hook their in fairly shallow water (40 - 50 ft) and slide off and start picking up Dungeness. Well Dungeness crab fishing that day was absolutely superb.
Diving for Dungeness is kind of entertaining; if you don’t dig them out of the sand you end up having to chase them for a while. I my self have overworked my regulator several times chasing Dungeness crab around, and they are fast! They kind of get up, half fly, half float and boogie along. This particular day we had gone out and acquired a fair amount of Dungeness, our quota for the day which is twenty each.
So we’d been down about 15 minutes or so, it was one of those really nice beautiful days, it was actually fairly warm out, upper 30’s low 40’s, crystal clear, blue sky, the seas were calm, visibility was 80 ft +, it was just really great, then all of a sudden the lights went out, it got dark! I looked over at Harry and Harry looked at me and signaled let’s go up, and I signaled hold on lets see just see what’s going on.
The next thing I know I see is this huge object about the size of a bus actually plummeting down towards us, Harry looked at me and signaled I am out of her, he beats feet, there he’s leaving big mud puff trails from his fins going up the very sharp incline that identifies Hand Trollers cove, and he is going so fast that I can’t catch him. As I turn around, watching Harry go one way, I am looking at this huge object coming toward me, my heart is beating like a bunny.
All of a sudden what comes into view is this humpback whale. And here is this
huge animal swimming up to me within about a meter (3 ft) from me and I am seeing his eye looking at me, kind of regarding me while I am just sort of hovering there mid water probably at about 50 - 60ft just totally amazed that this huge mammal can put on the breaks and stop and hover right there with me.
into this whales eye thinking Oh My God, this is really huge, I mean, what a incredible experience this is! I’d never seen one up close in the water like that before. The whale and I looked at each other for several minutes and I’m just kind of looking trying to see his whole body but he is too big.
All of a sudden I felt a bump on the back of my knees, and I couldn't figure out what bumped me. I thought that maybe Harry came back, so I turn around and there is a baby humpback whale! I am sandwiched right between Mom and the little one, and I go "Oh God! She is going to stamp me into hairy Bouillabaisse". There is no way that I am going to live through this whole thing as I am trying to extricate myself out of there without seeming too hostile.
The interesting thing was that neither whale was particularly bothered with my presence. They both looked at me like I was a lost buddy, so over the next 30 minutes I had repeated visits by both humpback whales. They would go up and get a breath and would come back down and find me again.
Now I am starting to work myself back over to my boat because I am getting kind of low on air. As I got close to the boat, they would continue to come back and return and swim with me side by side, almost like they were escorting me which was a very, very, interesting experience! The feeling that these were intelligent life beings that knew what was going on, who I was, what I was, and the fact that they chose to be there with me was incredible! It was an absolute honor and privilege to be visited by these whales.
I swim back to the boat, literally extracting the last four molecules of air out of my cylinder and I finally get back up to the surface and I look down in the water and they are swimming around under the boat. They would surface and swim around the boat and as I sat up on the swim step they would swim under the boat and come up and kind of roll over and look at me on the surface. It was as if they seemed to know I was ok.
My friend Harry is on the beach by now. He had been finning so fast here was almost a burrow because he did not stop racing back until he got to probably 40 - 50 yards up the beach, I am exaggerating! Now he wants me to come up to the beach in my fiberglass boat and pick him up!
I am going “No Harry, swim out”, and Harry is saying “No way, there are humpback whales out there!” So eventually I had to go to the beach and rescue him.
Let’s just say this was one of the most spectacular dives of
(Tani: Thank you John for sharing this story with us!)
This was an actual event encountered by John Lachelt of Channel Dive Center in Juneau Alaska. You can visit his dive center's web site at channeldive.com.
Channel Dive Center
Tani Church Bell Photography
Humpback Whales of Alaska (ADFG)
Humpback Whales (NOAA)
SPECIAL FEATURES > Interview > Cinematographer Michele Hall |
Barbara Phua on Bali and Photography | Tanya Streeter, World Champion Freediver! | Alice Lee in the Riau Archipelago | Cenotes diving with Sid Thaker | Dr. Alexander Mustard | Commercial Diver Larry Goldberg | David Lim in Layang Layang | John Lachelt in Alaska | Tanis and Said in the Desert