A humpback whale was spotted in New York City’s Hudson River

New Yorkers are used to seeing impressive sights along the Hudson River. There’s the Statue of Liberty standing watch in the waters between New York and New Jersey and the magnificent George Washington Bridge, just to name a couple.

However, a few people on and along the Hudson saw something truly spectacular rising from the waves on Dec. 7: a humpback whale!

The massive mammal — which was just removed from the endangered-species list in 2016 — seemed ready for a number of closeups on its tour of the waters of the Big Apple, as many photographers and videographers was able to capture the whale on camera.


One image of the humpback majestically surfacing right near Lady Liberty was caught by Bjoern Kils, a photojournalist who runs the New York Media Boat. This boat typically hosts tours and is also used to move news crews across the river. The meeting between the photographer and the mighty whale was a welcome change to a challenging year, Kils told Insider.

“It was neat. It definitely brought a bit of excitement to our day,” Kils said. “It’s been a slow year for the company because of the lack of tourism. So when we know there’s a whale out here, we fully document it but also provide a secure area to protect it.”

The boat spent a total of four hours in close proximity with the humpback whale, both to photograph it and to make sure it would be safe in the busy Hudson River waterway.

New Yorker Andrés Javier was able to catch some video of the creature swimming in the river about an hour before sundown off Hudson River Park’s Pier 84. He generously shared the clips on Twitter.

The U.S. Coast Guard confirmed the whale sighting but told Reuters it did not plan to intervene with the animal unless it was in specific danger. That outlet has some fantastic shots of the whale in its story on the sighting, as well, if you’d like to see more.

It may sound unlikely that a humpback whale would just be swimming around New York City but it’s apparently not so weird these days. The previously endangered species has been making a comeback in recent years, thanks to conservation efforts. Reports showed more than 300 humpback whales were spotted in the Hudson River in 2019 alone. This is a dramatic rise from the five spotted in 2011.

The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation shared Javier’s video on social media, citing several potential reasons for the return of the whales. Factors like an improvement in local water quality and an abundance of food sources have apparently brought them back to town.

As for the most recent aquatic visitor, Kils agrees that food is the likely draw for New York’s largest recent tourist.

“We don’t believe that it’s lost,” he said. “There’s just a lot of baitfish, millions up here in the harbor. The whale goes where food is good.”