Photos of the 32-ft Barens Seatrader Intrepid being on the receiving end of a Southern Right Whale’s best impression of a pile driver have gone viral over the last couple days; but curious sailors and a massive non-sailing audience aren’t the only people paying attention. According to the Cape Times, South African authorities have launched an investigation into whether the whale was harassed into breaching onto the Cape Town-based, steel-hulled boat operated by Ralph Mothes and Paloma Werner as part of their sailing school. According to the report, an eyewitness alleged that a RIB and "a yacht" had chased the whale — which left blubber and skin on the boat — until it began breaching.
Mothes and Werner weren’t specifically alleged to have been the antagonists in the story, but there are a couple things about this incident that make it ring more like a provoked encounter than a freak accident. First, it’s kind of funny that the two would be sailing without a mainsail on what looks like a really light-air day. Second, why was the commonly attributed lensman, James K. Dagmore, there shooting video at precisely that moment? Third, Mothes and Werner seemed all too ready to capitalize on the incident according to their website — which we’ve intentionally omitted in the event the investigation points toward some kind of sick, publicity stunt. Only time and the investigation will tell where the truth lies on this one.