Robyn Malcolm captured an amazing scene when she photographed a fur seal “surfing” a humpback whale off the New South Wales coast. The whales were in such a feeding frenzy that she didn’t realize she had captured the image until the next day.
New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife whale expert Geoff Ross told The Sydney Morning Herald that although it is highly uncommon for a seal to hitch a ride on a whale, there is a practical explanation: The whales surround fish and force them into “bait balls.”
“Anything that makes it easier to catch fish, seals will be involved,” Ross said.
Kathy James from the Sea Watch Foundation in the UK, didn’t know of any previous instances, but several recent videos have captured seals trying to ride on a surfboard. “It makes sense for any animal to save energy, which could be achieved by hitching a ride on a whale,” she says. She is curious about whether the whale was complicit and also reaped some benefit.