Video: Whale’s boat leap captured on video

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msnbc.com
updated 7/21/2010 10:04:05 AM ET 2010-07-21T14:04:05

A South African couple was out sailing near the country's infamous Robben Island when a 40-ton whale breached and crash-landed on their yacht.

"We were watching the whale flipping its tail for about half an hour," said Cape Town Sailing Academy Administrator Paloma Werner, who was enjoying a Sunday sail with her boyfriend and sailing instructor, Ralph Mothes.

"It reached about 100 to 200 meters from us, then it disappeared under water and reappeared about 10 to 20 meters from the boat, but we didn't think we were on a collision course," she told msnbc.com.

The young southern right whale was longer than their 10-meter yacht — most likely between 11 and 14 meters — Werner said.

"My boyfriend told me to go to the other side of the boat," she said, explaining that they thought it would dive under their vessel.

"All I heard him say was 'Oh sh*&,' and I saw the whale come out of the water and crash against the mast of the boat.

"I ducked behind the coach house and my boyfriend ducked behind the steering wheel and we saw the mast crashing toward us and the whale slip back into the water," she said.

"Bits of black whale blubber and barnacles," were strewn on the boat deck, but the couple did not see any blood in the water.

"The whale might have gotten a scratch and a bump on its head, but it surfaced again, so we don't think it was harmed," she said.

Adrenalin propelled Werner and Mothes through the next few minutes of checking the structure the boat for damage and leaks. Fortunately, the steel vessel did not take on any water and they were able to navigate it back into Table Bay Harbor.

"Only that evening did we really think about it, and when we saw the photo (taken by a tourist in a nearby boat) in yesterday's paper did we realize we were lucky to be alive," Werner said.

"If it would have crashed into the cockpit it would have sunk the boat."

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Photos: Whale lands on yacht

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  1. A young Southern Right Whale is seen jumping out of the water between Robben Island and Blouberg, off Cape Town, South Africa, on Sunday. The whale then landed on a yacht belonging to Ralph Mothes and Paloma Werner, breaking the steel mast. The whale swam away and the couple was not injured. (James Dagmore) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. "We were watching the whale flipping its tail for about half an hour," said Cape Town Sailing Academy Administrator Paloma Werner, who was enjoying a Sunday sail with her boyfriend and sailing instructor, Ralph Mothes, before the whale breached and landed on their yacht. (Courtesy of Paloma Werner) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. The whale destroyed the yacht's mast and damaged other parts of the boat as it thrashed about on the deck before going back into the water. The couple reported that the whale left some skin and blubber behind. (James Dagmore) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Werner and Mothes were able to sail the damaged boat back into Table Bay Harbor. (Courtesy of Paloma Werner) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. The boat, with its collapsed mast, is seen docked in Table Bay Harbor. (Courtesy of Paloma Werner) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. "Only that evening did we really think about it, and when we saw the photo (a tourist took of the whale breaching) in yesterday’s paper did we realize we were lucky to be alive," Werner said. (Courtesy of Paloma Werner) Back to slideshow navigation
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