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Why Do Whales Jump Out Of The Water?

A gray whale jumping out of the water near Dana Point, California
Wondering, Why Do Whales Jump Out of the Water? Capt. Dave Has All the Answers!

The Dana Point whale watching season brings an abundant number of whale sightings to onlookers aboard our five-star Capt. Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching tours. These whale sightings come from a handful of magnificent whale species that touchdown in the Southern California waters. These species range from humpback whales, blue whales, gray whales, and even killer whales, leaving novice and avid whale watchers in awe and often coming back for more.

With its incredible size and extraordinary appearance, each whale plays its part in making Dana Point Harbor home to the best whale watching in California. Not only does their size and appearance leave spectators speechless, but their graceful demeanor and sometimes exuberant antics lead passengers to ask one of our most frequently asked questions, why do whales jump out of the water?

Breaching humpback whale at sunset


Can Whales Jump? Yes, They Can!

For mammals that can weigh anywhere between 12,000 to 400,000 pounds (depending on species), it can be quite a shock to learn that whales can jump. As their notably long and large bodies make their way to the surface of the water, they propel themselves up and above it, almost hanging in midair for a split second. While wishing their split-second moment in midair would last long enough for you to fill up your camera roll with incredible Instagram-worthy shots, they soon crash and splash back down into the ocean blue waters below their massive bodies. This crash results in a slew of ocean spray, leaving anyone within a short distance both awe-struck and a wee bit wet.

Because these whales can jump so high out of the water, ocean voyagers experience both delight and absolute elation. But besides the bliss and ebullience that one can enjoy aboard a whale watching Southern California tour, it leaves us asking how and why whales jump out of the water in the first place.

The Reasons Why Whales Jump Out of the Water

Whales breach and jump out of the water for many reasons, but one main reason is that whales can jump to make an extra loud sound effect. With a splash so big, it’s only apparent that it would be accompanied by a noise just as big. This is beneficial for whales striving to communicate with other whales who may be located long distances away. This is especially true if there are loud noises in the background of their marine environment, such as vessel noise and weather, which may inhibit their ability to hear and send vocals to other whales.

Can Humpback Whales Jump?

Researchers studied humpback whales, a species famously known for its playful antics and high-spirited maneuvers above and below the water. They wanted to understand why whales jump out of water and discovered that a whale’s jumping, fluking, breaching, and pectoral fin slapping varied depending on the weather conditions and how close in proximity they were to other whales.

In some instances, they found that when the weather was windy, therefore causing an inability to hear, the whales would fin slap more. In contrast, when conditions were calmer, or whales were more distant from each other, the whales could breach and jump to increase their chances of the louder noise reaching whales farther away. Upon observation, experts also found that whales jump less when co-species are closer, therefore not giving the whales any reason to make as much noise to communicate.

Why Do Whales Jump Out of the Water? Three Simple Reasons.

In essence, scientists believe that one of the main reasons whales can jump is to communicate more efficiently. Although the specifics of what they are communicating are unknown, it is thought that the communication can range from establishing the location of themselves and their food to warning against predators such as killer whales. It may also simply show that humans aren’t the only ones who enjoy a good chat with loved ones here and again.

An additional reason why whales jump out of the water has to do with their eating patterns. Some theories state that whales can jump to stun their prey, making it more convenient to catch and consume them. This can be helpful in feeding as it is much more time-efficient, mainly because the prey is stunned and frozen versus alert and capable of escaping.

The third reason why male whales jump out of the water is to display competitive maneuvers among other whales of the same gender. Whether this is an attempt to impress female whales or have a bit of fun, the reasons are not officially known.

Can Gray Whales Jump?

Yes! Gray whales can jump. Fortunately, researchers know more about the gray whales, who often breach and spyhop to catch a peek at their surroundings during their annual round-trip migration from the Arctic to their breeding grounds in Baja California, Mexico. Their vertical breach helps them know where they are located during their migration, as they use coastal headlands as landmarks during their 12,000-mile migration.

Why Do Whales Jump Out of the Water? Because it’s FUN!

One of the final reasons why whales jump out of the water is that researchers believe they’re simply having fun! Researchers, whale watchers, sailors, carnival cruisers, and many more who have spotted these spectacular creatures in the wild can testify that they all have personality and spirit. With that personality and spirit comes a desire to express it, so while whales can jump and breach, it may just be a way for them to enjoy life and exert their energy.

Thankfully, our incredible team and passionate passengers have and continue to be fellow recipients of these breathtaking jumps, breaches, and wild splashes. The sights have been nothing less than stellar and stunning, as onlookers catch more than fantastic photos of these amazing animals but are also pleasantly caught off guard by their breathtaking breaches and jumps.

See for Yourself Why Whales Jump Out of the Water!

To see a massive animal almost take flight and propel its colossal-sized self out of the water is remarkable and unforgettable. Safaris aboard Capt. Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching vessels give passengers the opportunity to experience unforgettable moments such as these.

Join us any time of the year as we embark on daily, year-round excursions that may leave you jumping for joy like the marine friends nearby.

Until then,
Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari