KEAUHOU, Hawaii – A thrilling close encounter between a humpback whale and some local college students made headlines recently. The video above was captured by the University of Hawaii and shared with Hawaii’s TV news stations.

Students from the Hawaiʻi Community College UH Center in West Hawaiʻi experienced the thrill during a unique vessel-based lab that is part of a new oceanography course.

“It was playing with us today,” said student Tashi Machado. “It started going under our boat. It’s, it was just, it didn’t go down for a while, and we just got a lot of good pictures.”

The encounter happened about four miles off Hawaiʻi island’s Kona coast.

Humpback whale meets students off Kona coast

Humpback whale meets students off Kona coast

This is the first year the Introduction to Oceanography Lab has been offered. Its usually the sort of work that only graduate students get to experience, says the university. The students engage in hands-on experiential learning aboard the Kona Community Cultural and Educational Foundation’s state-of-the-art oceanographic vessels, launched out of Keauhou Bay. The mission of the non-profit KCCEF is conservation, preservation, education and ethical behavior in regards to marine resources.

“This is what they call the high impact learning experiences,” said biology instructor Brie Day. “Anybody can think back to their childhood even, do you remember all the lessons you learn sitting in the classroom or do you remember the field trips and special projects that you did, when you were in third grade? Those are the things that you remember forever.”

The students participate in seven oceanographic voyages during the semester that feature different aspects of oceanography like sea floor mapping, ocean chemistry, plankton studies, ocean navigation, reef ecology, cetacean viewing, hydrophone-based whale song studies and coastal dynamics.

On this day’s voyage, the students collected water and plankton samples and then analyzed the samples using state-of-the-art microscopes at KCCEF’s outdoor laboratory at Keauhou Bay.