John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
The unusual frenzy of whales bursting from the waves lasted at least 45 minutes.
Marine scientists have already noted 2016 has been an extremely prolific year for whales along the California coast. Nowhere was that more evident recently than the San Francisco Bay, where humpback whales awed kayakers by snapping their gargantuan maws on loads of luckless fish.
“Three at once coming up from the bottom like a Polaris missile with their mouths open to capture all the water,” Lyrinda Snyderman told ABC News. “We had never seen this behavior before in the bay.”
The cetacean agitation went on for at least 45 minutes Sunday in front of the familiar backdrops of Alcatraz Island and the Bay Bridge. Researchers have offered different theories for the whales’ heavy presence off California, from trouble in their southern breeding grounds to a surge in their favorite prey in local waters. The latter might be the case here: Herring are reportedly moving in large numbers around San Francisco, as evident in this footage of seagulls going all Alfred Hitchcock near the city’s Ocean Beach: