Is the ‘Humpback Whale Swallows Two Girls in California’ Video Real?

Two women who were enjoying a day of kayaking received the surprise of their lives when they had a close encounter with a humpback whale.

  • Published
A Facebook post said of a video that a humpback whale swallows two girls in California but the reality was that the November 2020 incident in Avila Beach did not involve either woman landing in the animal's mouth.
Image via Facebook

Claim

A video shot in November 2020 shows a humpback whale swallowing two women who were kayaking in Avila Beach, California.

Rating

Miscaptioned
Miscaptioned
About this rating
Context

The video is real and was shot in Avila Beach, California, on Nov. 2, 2020. However, while the angle from which the video was shot might make it look like the two women landed in the whale’s mouth, the reality was that they simply fell behind the whale and into the water.

On Aug. 1, 2022, readers inquired about the legitimacy of a video on Facebook that claimed to show a humpback whale swallowing two women who were kayaking in California. The post began with the words, “A humpback whale swallows two girls in California,” and continued as follows:

In the US, off the coast of California, two girls kayaking nearly became lunch for a humpback whale hunting a school of fish.

The sea giant suddenly arose from the depths exactly in the place where the boat was sailing – the women were trapped in the mouth of the whale.

After a few seconds he spat them out. Fortunately, there were no casualties.

While the video on Facebook was real, it was false to claim that the whale swallowed the two women. The angle from which the video was shot made it appear as if the two women landed in the whale’s mouth. However, the truth was that the pair simply landed in the water. (After the Facebook post with the video went viral, the same claim was subsequently made elsewhere on TikTok and YouTube.)

The video was originally posted on Nov. 2, 2020, the same day the incident occurred. The setting was Avila Beach, California, which is located along the coast around halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco:

We also found this alternate angle of the same moment with the whale and two women:

On Nov. 3, CNN reported that the two women, Julie McSorley and Liz Cottriel, “managed to escape unscathed, briefly going underwater after capsizing before reemerging”:

“I saw the big pool of fish, the big bait ball come up out of the water,” McSorley told CNN affiliate KMPH. “I saw the whale come up. I thought, ‘Oh, no! It’s too close.'”

“All of a sudden, I lifted up, and I was in the water.”

Footage from a witness nearby makes it appear as if the kayakers are being swallowed by the whale, but the two just tipped over.

“The whale was right here in my face, literally,” Cottriel told KMPH.

In sum, no, the popular video on Facebook did not show a humpback whale swallowing two women in California. The video was real, but the caption was stretching the truth. For these reasons, we have rated this story as, “Miscaptioned.”

Note: We previously reported on this same video after another viral social media post also showed a misleading caption that claimed, “Yo a whale really ate this lady.”

Sources:

Evon, Dan. “Did a Humpback Whale Eat a Kayaker?” Snopes.com, 4 Nov. 2020, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/humpback-whale-eat-kayaker/.

Gonzalez, Liz. “Humpback Whale Almost Swallows Kayakers near Avila Beach.” KMPH, 2 Nov. 2020, https://kmph.com/news/local/kayakers-get-knocked-over-by-humpback-whales-at-avila-beach.

Kim, Allen. “A Humpback Whale Almost Swallows Kayakers near a California Beach.” CNN, 3 Nov. 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/03/us/whale-kayak-trnd/index.html.

Newman, Melissa, and Kellie Balentine. KSBY via Twitter, 2020, https://twitter.com/melnewmantv/status/1323439770043777024.

Newman, Melissa, and Mandy Boyle. KSBY via Twitter, 2020, https://twitter.com/melnewmantv/status/1323458988898312193.