Thursday, May 23

California Woman’s Boat Hit Whale Last September; She’s Still Recovering

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Last September 30, the boat that Melissa Thomas, a 48-year-old wildlife photographer, was riding in hit a 30-ton humpback whale in Monterey Bay, California. She was riding in the bow, and was thrown back into the boat’s windshield by the impact. She’s still recovering from her injuries.

On that September Sunday, Thomas and three friends were heading out into the bay to scuba dive, when they saw several humpback whales lunge feeding not far away. Fascinated, they watched for about half an hour, and then started to drive away toward their dive spot.

Suddenly a whale arched out of the water in front of the boat. Seated in the bow as the spotter, Thomas yelled “whale” just as the boat hit the back of the whale. She told the Monterey Herald it was like running into a brick wall. Her friends were thrown to the deck, and Thomas was thrown backward; the right side of her head broke through the windshield and she was then tossed against a window frame and a railing.

Thomas’ friends called 911 and headed in to the dock. An ambulance met them and took her to a trauma center in Salinas. A neurologist said she suffered catastrophic injuries to her head and upper body, including a broken jaw, cracked shoulder blade, cracked clavicle, fractures in her spine and her left arm. After surgery, her jaw was wired shut for five weeks.

Thomas is now back home in Monterey and back at work in Pebble Beach, although her left arm is still recovering. Still, she can’t wait to get back on the water, to dive and to see more whales. “I still love them,” she says, but she also warns boaters to give whales plenty of room. “We share the ocean with them,” she says. Read more:



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