Humpback whale breaching
A humpback whale nearly killed an Australian teenager by crashing into his boat. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

A 13-year-old Australian teen Drew Hall recently survived an encounter with a pod of humpback whales when he was almost killed by a lash from a giant cetacean’s tail. The boy was knocked unconscious and thrown from his boat. He survived with a concussion and broken collar bone.

So-called gentle giant nearly pancakes Aussie teen

The incident occurred Sunday, June 26, near Sydney, Australia, when the whale apparently flicked Hall’s fishing boat with its tail, reports MSNBC. The boy’s mother saw the whale breach and leap out of the water, then its tail landed on top of the boat as it re-entered the water.

Drew Hall and his parents were fishing off the coast of New South Wales at Brooms Head, an oceanfront resort town several hundred miles northeast of Sydney. The teen was “sent flying” by the whale, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. He awoke on a boat ramp as paramedics administered care. Hall was treated for concussion and a broken collar bone. Despite the incident, Hall has resolved to continue going on fishing expeditions with his family.

Migrations pose danger to boaters

It is currently the migratory season for humpback whales, as Pacific humpbacks routinely travel along the coast of Australia when heading north for the summer. Drew Hall isn’t the only recent victim of whale-related mishaps. Just two days before Hall was almost pulverized, a 40-foot boat was sunk in Sydney Harbor after what is believed to have been a whale collision, writes The Daily Telegraph. The boat owner involved managed to flee via dinghy, as the hole in his vessel prevented it from remaining afloat. Two whales were seen in the immediate vicinity, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Gentle giants pose real danger

While whales are majestic creatures that need and deserve protection, experts note that these “gentle giants” are dangerous to human beings. A 2010 viral video shows a right whale (one of a species of baleen whale) sinking a sail boat in South Africa, though the occupants were lucky enough to survive.

Even in captivity, whales they pose a danger. SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau was killed by an orca last year, and the original Shamu mauled a SeaWorld employee in 1971.

Whale watching aboard smaller vessels is not advisable, as they can be easily capsized. Herman Melville’s classic novel “Moby Dick” was inspired by vessels actually sunk by sperm whales. For instance, the whaling ship Essex famously sank when rammed by a sperm whale off South America in 1820.



Sydney Morning Herald on Drew Hall:

Sydney Morning Herald on Sydney Harbor capsizing:

The Daily Telegraph:

List of Orca attacks on Wikipedia:

Right whale Wiki:

For more on the whaling ship Essex, see “In the Heart of the Sea” by Nathaniel Philbrick.

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