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3 humpback whales jump in unison in ‘once in a lifetime’ video

Robert Addie thought he couldn’t be happier celebrating his 59th birthday with his three daughters and son-in-law on a tuna fishing trip off Cape Cod this week.

The New Hampshire man got an awe-inspiring birthday surprise when three whales jumped from the water and twisted in the air in near-perfect unison. Addie recorded the rare triple breach, which he called a “truly epic moment.”

“I kept getting my phone out to catch them and I kept missing them, so I said that I’m just going to keep it recording,” said Addie, a former commercial fisherman. “When they launched from the water, I let out a loud expletive. It was stunning.”

“It was just a whale ballet,” he said.

The video has gotten the attention of delighted marine biologists.

“Seeing three whales in a row synchronized like that is a once-in-a-lifetime sight,” said Laura Howes, director of research and education at New England Aquarium Whale Watch. She described the triple breach as “breathtaking.”

Humpback whales are popular for marine watchers because of their love of breaching, the scientific term for propelling their bodies out of the water. Adult humpback whales can grow up to 60 feet long and weigh between 50,000 and 80,000 pounds, according to the National Wildlife Federation. Humpback whales are listed as endangered species in parts of the United States, but a moratorium on commercial whaling has “played a major role in the recovery of humpback whales” since 1985, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service.

In the summertime, whales are trying to regain the weight they lost during the mating and birthing process. Howes said humpback whales want to gain 10,000 to 20,000 pounds in the summertime.

“Eating and putting on weight is probably the most important thing in the summer,” she said.

Some researchers say whales breach “to stun or scare their prey, making it easier to catch,” according to the nonprofit American Oceans Campaign. Breaching can be a form of communication or socializing, while other times it can be for play or to help digestion or dislodge barnacles attached to their bodies, Howes said.

Breaching is such a high-energy activity that it is “equivalent to a human running a marathon,” she said.

The spectacle off the coast of Massachusetts on Monday punctuated a homecoming for Addie.

Addie and his daughters try to go on a fishing trip each year for his birthday, but this year was the first time all three of them were able to join him, he said. The trip meant even more since Addie, a home remodeler, had recently returned from a humanitarian aid trip to war-torn Kherson, Ukraine. He came under heavy artillery fire during his three weeks there from late June to early July, Addie said.

Addie could not wait to reunite with his daughters Sage, 28; Cierra, 24; and Neve, 21; and Josh, his 27-year-old son-in-law.

“The fishing trip was a welcome home of sorts from my daughters since I was under aggressive fire in Ukraine,” he said. “It was like: ‘Glad you’re safe. Let’s have some fun.’”

The birthday weekend was already one for the books — dinners, a beer garden, a Boston Red Sox game at Fenway Park. When Monday rolled around, the exhausted group was good with enjoying some fishing in Massachusetts Bay’s Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and reminiscing about their fun.

The excitement returned when the three whales launched themselves from the water in unison — putting everything that happened before the moment “into the penalty box,” he joked.

“Wow, wow! Oh my God!” Sage exclaims in the video. “That was so cool! Did you get that? Please tell me you got that!”

An excited Addie confirmed that he had.

The Portsmouth, N.H., man has appreciated the whales he’s seen all over the world — Australia, New Zealand, Mexico — but this was different.

“In all my experiences with whales, I’ve never seen a triple breach in sync like that,” Addie said.

What made it even more amazing for Addie and his family was that a juvenile whale did the same thing a few seconds later. Addie said it was a “teaching moment” for the young whale.

“The calf did the exact same movement,” he said.

Addie and his family did not catch any tuna, but they came away with a memory of a lifetime that has since gone viral. On Friday, Addie’s actual birthday, he said he can’t stop watching the video and wonders how he, his daughters and his son-in-law were so lucky to see such majestic beauty unfold in front of them.

“God was shining down on my family,” he said. “It was just a fantastic day on the water.”

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