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TODAY   |  July 22, 2010

Boaters recall whale’s leap at their yacht

Paloma Werner and Ralph Mothes tell how a 40-ton whale jumped and landed on their sailboat in the waters off Cape Town, South Africa. Werner says it was “an extraordinary experience” she would not like to repeat.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> in south africa with a whale of a story to tell. literally. take a look at this photo. ralph and paloma westerner were on their sailboat when a whale crash landed on the deck of their sailboat. they're with us exclusively. paloma is in cape town , south africa , ralph is joining us by phone. good morning to both of you.

>> good morning.

>> good morning.

>> good morning, america.

>> almost. paloma , let me start with you. i just want to go over something that we are hearing a lot of questions about. is this photo legitimate? there's been no photo shopping of this image or anything like that?

>> it is definitely legitimate. we were on the boat and we saw the whale coming out, and we saw it. it's legitimate. it hasn't been photo shopped.

>> all right, you guys were doing a little whale watching . i understand you had been following one whale for about an hour or so. you cut your engines so that you could be more quiet. did you follow all protocol? i mean, was there any fear on your part, paloma , that perhaps you were getting too close to this whale ?

>>> first of all, we didn't cut the engines, we actually were sailing, so we didn't have the engine on, and we were not following the whale . we saw it about 400 meters away from us, and it was slipping its tail into the water, so we just watched it, and, no. we were not following it. we were just watching it.

>> ralph , the image that is breathtaking is the one that we're looking at right now. i don't know if you can see it but it's the image of the whale actually coming out of the water, i mean right next to the sailboat, and what always gets me when i see that image, i go back to it, is look how close you were to this whale . i mean you were at the whole wheel of this boat. what were your thoughts when you saw this thing coming out of the water?

>> well, you must remember that that was the third and final breach of this particular whale . the first time it breached about 400, 500 meters away from us. and a few seconds later it came up again halving that distance. and it seemed as though it would not be -- we would not be on a collision course. you must remember, we were not under power, we were under sail and we were at right angles to this whale . and i never for a minute thought this thing would hit the boat at all. i thought, if anything, our previous experience had been that whales actually dive under and, you know, come up on the other side of the boat at some stage. because we have a lot of whales. and blow me down, suddenly i saw this huge monster shape come up out of the water on my port side and yeah, that's it. i mean, it just happened in an instant. it was quite frightening. i had barnacles because they have lots of barnacles on them. and there was lots of skin, about a centimeter thick, but no blood and no blubber. so clearly it just had -- it was bruised and so on, and then slipped back.

>> well, i just am amazed that the boat did not sink, which is very fortunate for the two of you. obviously this photo taken by a whale watcher a short distance away. it is certainly getting an awful lot of play all around the world. we're happy the two of you are okay this morning.

>> yeah, no. we were very fortunate.

>> it was an awesome experience. we wouldn't want to repeat it, but

>> i can imagine, nobody would want to go through it again. ralph morrison and pal ohm yeah werner, thank you very much. first of all, it's a little difficult. we had people in different parts of the country there. but, i mean, if you're the guy standing at the wheel --

>> because --

>> you're probably not going to wear that outfit. that is a tough experience.

>> yeah.

>> it's one angry whale . i don't know what --

>> i don't think so. curious. apparently the whale had surfaced, he thought it would go underneath and sure enough, no.

>> well, they're both lucky, that's