A true spyhop is when a whale rises vertically in the water column, thrusting its head upward to bring its eyes above the water’s surface to facilitate the whale looking at someone or something: the whale hops up to spy its surroundings.

Because the eyes of a humpback whale are located relatively far back on the head, true spyhops are uncommon among the species. Most humpback spyhops involve the whale bringing its eyes to just below the surface to look around, as in the case of a curious whale investigating swimmers or a boat, or in courtship when the whales interact very closely.

In contrast to some of the other powerful splashy behaviors like breaching, lobtailing or pec slapping, spyhops are slow movements largely powered by the whale’s extraordinary buoyancy control as opposed to active upward swimming.