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Jumping whales create spectacle off Myrtle Beach coast

Humpback whale, several dolphins spotted off the coast of Huntington Beach State Park

Murrells Inlet resident Troy Montenery was walking south toward Litchfield Beach when he spotted the whale and several dolphins roughly 50 yards offshore.
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Murrells Inlet resident Troy Montenery was walking south toward Litchfield Beach when he spotted the whale and several dolphins roughly 50 yards offshore.

Two hulking whales created quite a spectacle Sunday off the coast of Myrtle Beach.

For more than an hour, the whales jumped from the ocean and crashed back to sea in what one Myrtle Beach State Park ranger said was an impressive show. Ranger Ann Wilson said she never has seen such an event in two decades of working at the state park.

"To see a whale breach 100 plus times in a couple of hours, it was amazing,'' Wilson said. "It was better than any whale watch boat I've ever been on in California or Cape Cod or Alaska.''

It is not unusual to see humpback whales off the South Carolina coast. But to see them jump from the water is rare in the Palmetto State, officials said. A friend of Wilson's took the pictures with a long lens.

'I've never seen a photo of them breaching like that before'' in South Carolina, said Erin Weeks, a spokeswoman for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. "It was pretty cool they were able to capture that.''

She and Wilson said the humpbacks likely were moving from Florida to New England, where they spend much of the summer in the chilly waters of the North Atlantic.

Humpback whales can reach 36 to 52 feet long and weigh up to 40 tons, according to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.

It isn't clear why whales breach. However, some scientists say the leaping may be a form of communication with other whales that are not close by.

Wilson apparently was among the few people at the park to see the whale show because the creatures were jumping, or breaching, on a raw March day when not many visitors were at the park, she said.

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