MONTEREY, Calif. (KSBW/CNN) – A marine biologist recently snapped a photo of something that’s rarely, if ever, seen.
"I get to see a lot of crazy stuff. Never this," Chase Dekker said.
Dekker was working as the marine biologist and photographer for Sanctuary Cruises, a whale-watching tour agency in Moss Landing, Calif., when he captured the image of a sea lion inside the mouth of a humpback whale on Monday.
“There’s a lot of people on the boat who had never even seen a whale,” Dekker said. “So, the fact that they can see something so amazing, something I’ve never seen in all my years doing this ... it’s mind-blowing.”
People on the boat were watching a pod of humpbacks on a feeding frenzy when the freak act of nature happened.
"And I was hoping I got the photo,” Dekker said. “I was looking behind the lens. I was like, ‘OK, I hope I got it,’ and then I looked and I was so ecstatic because I just captured a moment I may never see again."
Dekker explained that humpback whales don’t eat sea lions. They instead eat krill, plankton and small fish.
Dekker posted the picture on Facebook for all to see, and it’s gone viral.
But there are some online naysayers.
“People keep saying, ‘Well, this is clearly Photoshopped. This is clearly taken on a dock or somewhere else and the sea lion was put in the whale’s mouth.’ So, you’re getting a lot of that,” Dekker said.
Dekker said there were also hundreds of sea lions in the feeding frenzy. The unlucky sea lion in the photo didn’t get out of the way fast enough when the whale swam up to feed.
When the whale went back down, the sea lion swam off, Dekker said.
“It may have a little PTSD, may be a little shaken up, but honestly there’s a lot worse things to worry about, with all the sharks and orcas in the bay,” Dekker said. “It’s got a lot more on its mind than being in a whale’s mouth for a few seconds.”