Right whales can grow to a maximum size of 15 metres and can be found in the North Atlantic, North Pacific and Southern Ocean.

Image of giant whales swimming under a Malaysian bridge is fake

FactCheck August 2, 2019

The Statement

AAP FactCheck examined a Facebook post from July 29, 2019 which shows an image of a giant whale and her calf swimming beneath a bridge. The caption states: “This is so beautiful”.

This Facebook post from July 29, 2019 shows two right whales swimming beneath the Sungai Johor Bridge in Malaysia.

The post had been shared more than 100 times and attracted more than 20 comments and 65 reactions.

The Analysis

AAP FactCheck analysed the image and found the bridge in the picture was the Sungai Johor Bridge in Malaysia. The bridge is 1.7 kilometres long and is part of the Senai Desaru Expressway which connects the towns of Senai and Desaru across the Johor River in the south of Malaysia. 

The distance between the two pylons in the image is 500 metres. The whale in the image is longer than the distance between the two pylons.

The original photo of the Sungai Johor was taken by Singaporean-based photographer, Chuttersnap and posted to the photo-sharing site, Unsplash, on January 11, 2018.

Chuttersnap confirmed to AAP FactCheck the Facebook post showed his image of the Sungai Johor in Malaysia and said “it’s the whales that have been added”. 

Dr Mike Double, Australian Marine Mammal Centre scientist from the Australian Antarctic Division, told AAP FactCheck the whales in Facebook post were right whales. 

The Australian Antarctic Division is part of the Department of Environment and Energy, based in Hobart, and is responsible for research activities in the Australian Antarctic Territory and Southern Ocean.

Dr Double said right whales grow to “a maximum size of 15 metres” and they had “a very wide distribution but were most commonly found in the North Atlantic, North Pacific (rarely), Southern Ocean (and bordering coastlines)”. “They do not inhabit waters near Malaysia – in theory they could survive there for a while at least,” he said.

According to the Australian Museum, the southern right whale inhabits the southern and sub-antarctic oceans except during the winter breeding season. During breeding season they migrate to warmer waters around the southern parts of the African, South American and Australian land masses. The Malaysian bridge in the Facebook post is some 5000km from the east coast of Australia.

The Facebook post shows two whales swimming between the two pylons which are 500m apart. The maximum size a right whale grows is around 15m which means over 30 whales would have to line-up head to tail to bridge the space between the pylons. The Facebook shows one whale that is bigger than 500m.

AAP FactCheck traced the original altered image of the whales to a Turkish Radio Television and Cinema student who was studying photographic manipulation art and graphic design. The student posted the manipulated image to his Instagram account under the handle, umutreberart.

The Instagram post stated the image was his “own digital manipulation study”. “It was created by bringing two photos together. Photoshop was used as a tool,” he wrote on the Instagram post. “Thanks to everyone who conveyed their best wishes to me for the artwork I have done.”

The Verdict 

Based on this evidence, AAP FactCheck found the Facebook post to be false. The image was altered by a student by combining an image of the Sungai Johor bridge in Malaysia and two right whales. 

False – The Facebook post is false.

 First published August 2, 2019 10:34 AEST

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