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Image Showing a Kayak in the Mouth of a Whale

by Brett M. Christensen

This story was first published on May 24th 2010


Circulating message claims that an attached image depicts a kayak caught in the open mouth of a whale as it surfaces to feed.

Brief Analysis

The image is not what it seems. In fact, the image is a clever combination of two separate photographs taken by Sitka, Alaska based photographer Tim Shobe. The original feeding whale photograph that was used in the manipulation can be viewed on the photographer’s website. The other photograph depicting the kayaker was also taken by Tim Shobe.


Subject: Kayak in mouth of whale

This is an actual picture from Alaska!!!!!!!

He is in the whales MOUTH!

Incredible picture taken in Sitka

Hi all. I couldn’t resist sending this one along. The photo was taken at the entrance to Katlian Bay at the end of the road in Sitka. The whale is coming up to scoop up a mouthful of herring (the small fish seen at the surface around the kayak). The kayaker is a local Sitka Dentist. I haven’t talked to him yet, but haven’t heard of any injuries out of the experience.

Enjoy, Steve


Yep, that is me in the picture. Yep that is a whale that was just around the corner from the ferry terminal. “Paddle really fast” is the only thing I could think of at the time.. Also thinking that I don’t look like a herring, don’t smell like a herring but with the same herring instinct of “get the hell out of the way of that big mouth!!” Still living to tell yet another story..

Rich K
Sitka’s very own Dr. Richard Kraft during one of his routine oral examinations:

Kayak in Mouth of Whale

Photo credit for photographs used in this image: Tim Shobe


Detailed Analysis

This compelling image, which depicts a kayaker paddling his small craft through the massive mouth of a whale as the creature rises to scoop up herring, is circulating around the world via email, blogs and social networking websites. The image is certainly one that would cause most viewers to do a double take and it has generated a great deal of discussion. Many commentators have suggested that the image is the result of some clever digital manipulation. In this case, these commentators are perfectly correct.
In fact, the image is the result of the combining of two unrelated photographs using an image manipulation program. Sometimes, images that circulate via the Internet carry hidden information about them in the form of embedded metadata. Opening the image in a photo processing application can give the viewer access to this metadata, which often reveals camera information, the date the shot was taken and – most importantly for our current purposes – the name of the photographer.

In this case, the photographer is revealed in the metadata as Tim Shobe. Googling the photographer’s name quickly reveals his website, Shobe Studios. And a quick look around the photo galleries on the website soon turns up the very same feeding whale image, albeit with the kayaker conspicuously absent. The photograph of the kayaker was also taken by Tim Shobe.

I contacted Mr Shobe to ask if he could provide some insight into the origin of the manipulated image and he was kind enough to offer the following reply:

Hi Brett…

Thank you for your interest in my whale/kayaker image that has inadvertently made it’s way through cyberspace with the help of forwarded emails and sites such as yours. I have heard good things about it and I have actually received ‘hate mail’ by those that don’t know any better, but in an effort to put things into a positive and truthful light, please allow me to forward you the email that I sent to someone else recently requesting the same info from me.

Here’s the scope for the record:

Being bored one night and looking through my images, I came across some photos of whales that I took and then one of my friend Richard from here in Sitka while he was in his kayak. These two images were from two completely different times and locations…(roughly 3 months apart). I came up with the idea to create a manipulated image with the help of Photoshop to use as a small piece of entertainment for a few of my friends on my email list. The whale image of mine that I used for this piece was one of many captured during a day in which I blessed to have witness several humpback whales bubblenetting and lunge feeding. I will not give the exact location, but it was in March and near Sitka.

Tim Shobe also provided the original photographs he used in his creation. I have included these photographs in sequence below:

Kayak Whale Mouth Images 1 Kayak Whale Mouth Images 2

Kayak Whale Mouth Images 1 Kayak Whale Mouth Images 4

March 2010 article by Sitka Sentinel Staff Writer Shannon Haugland provides more details about the image’s subsequent “escape” into cyberspace:

Sitkan Tim Shobe is known for taking photos so good they’re “unbelievable.” But none is quite so unbelievable as the one he took of his friend Rich Kraft paddling through the mouth of a bubble-feeding humpback. The photo of the humpback is real, and so is the one of Kraft. But the two together? Not real.

“He sent it to me, and I showed it around work,” said Kraft, who is a physician at SEARHC-Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital. The image included a quip about Kraft conducting an oral exam. “It was just a picture to get a chuckle,” Kraft said. He thought his friends would enjoy Shobe’s photographic and PhotoShop skills — and the joke — and sent it along to a few people about 10 days ago.

But in the world of the Internet, such things take on a life of their own. Before Kraft knew it, the photo had come back to him after reaching several other people. The question was always: “Is this real?” The caption “one plus one can still equal one” and the joke about an oral exam were missing, which probably resulted in some people being deceived, Kraft said.

He even received a call from an Anchorage reporter, and an offer from a cousin to send it to National Geographic.

Thus, as has happened many times before, a skilled – and perfectly innocent – piece of Photoshop malarkey has escaped into the wilds of cyberspace and managed to dupe a hefty number of recipients along its journey.

Special thanks to Tim Shobe for his rapid reply to my query and for his kind permission to use his photographs in this article. Tim is a talented artist who has many beautiful photographs available for viewing on his website.

Importance Notice

After considerable thought and with an ache in my heart, I have decided that the time has come to close down the Hoax-Slayer website.

These days, the site does not generate enough revenue to cover expenses, and I do not have the financial resources to sustain it going forward.

Moreover, I now work long hours in a full-time and physically taxing job, so maintaining and managing the website and publishing new material has become difficult for me.

And finally, after 18 years of writing about scams and hoaxes, I feel that it is time for me to take my fingers off the keyboard and focus on other projects and pastimes.

When I first started Hoax-Slayer, I never dreamed that I would still be working on the project all these years later or that it would become such an important part of my life. It's been a fantastic and engaging experience and one that I will always treasure.

I hope that my work over the years has helped to make the Internet a little safer and thwarted the activities of at least a few scammers and malicious pranksters.

A Big Thank You

I would also like to thank all of those wonderful people who have supported the project by sharing information from the site, contributing examples of scams and hoaxes, offering suggestions, donating funds, or helping behind the scenes.

I would especially like to thank David White for his tireless contribution to the Hoax-Slayer Facebook Page over many years. David's support has been invaluable, and I can not thank him enough.

Closing Date

Hoax-Slayer will still be around for a few weeks while I wind things down. The site will go offline on May 31, 2021. While I will not be publishing any new posts, you can still access existing material on the site until the date of closure.

Thank you, one and all!

Brett Christensen,