There haven’t been many tourists in New York City this year, but this week, locals spotted one really big one.
A humpback whale was caught on camera frolicking in the Hudson River near iconic New York City landmarks. Photojournalist Bjoern Kils was one of the onlookers lucky enough to see the gentle giant in action.
He told Reuters he spotted the whale, which was roughly 40 feet long, at around 10 a.m. near Ellis Island on Tuesday.
The Coast Guard confirmed the sighting, Reuters reported. It said it would only get involved if the whale became endangered in any way.
Kils, who runs local boat company New York Media Boats, told the BBC that he regularly sees other marine life, such as seals, in the harbor, but rarely sees whales. He hasn’t seen another one since 2016.
“It’s a bit of a silver lining with COVID that there’s not much boat traffic out here, and the whale has a very good chance of getting out into the ocean,” Kils told Reuters.
“As we were passing the Statue of Liberty, it flung its tail out of the water — twice!” he added.
Singer-songwriter Andres Javier also caught sight of the whale. He shared images from Pier 84 in Hudson River Park on Monday evening.
Gotham Whale, a nonprofit that’s been collecting data on Atlantic whales since 2011, said the whale was most likely visiting the city’s harbor for food.
The whale is most likely visiting due to the plentiful food available right now,” the group tweeted. “This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a #HumpbackWhale in the #HudsonRiver. In 2016, we had one stay for a week!”
Thanks to successful environmental policies, water quality in New York Harbor has improved dramatically in recent years, prompting a boom in marine life. National Geographic reported last year that whale sightings in the area had soared from just five in 2011 to 272 in 2018.