The claim: Photo shows whale nearly swallowing kayaker
A viral image purports to show a stunning scene between a kayaker and a whale in Alaska.
The caption describes a Sitka, Alaska, dentist kayaking in the Katlian Bay when a whale opens its mouth underneath him to get herring from the water's surface.
“If the whale had closed his mouth before he furiously paddled away, he might have been LUNCH!!! Look at the picture again – He is in the whale’s MOUTH!” read part of the July 14 Facebook post that was shared more than 400 times in less than one month.
The image has spread online for years. A July 2016 Facebook post that described the image as a "one in a billion photo" was shared more than 120,000 times.
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But the posts don't show a legitimate photograph. It’s a Photoshopped image created by a local photographer for friends more than a decade ago. The photographer told USA TODAY the image went viral and became attached to the false narrative seen in various social media posts.
USA TODAY reached out to the user who shared the claim for comment.
Local photographer merged two pictures to create image
Photographer Tim Shobe told USA TODAY in an Aug. 3 email he created the composite image “for fun” roughly 12 years ago.
Shobe took two of his photographs, one of a kayaker and another of a whale, and Photoshopped them together before sending the altered image to some friends.
“But I never tried to fool anyone, and the wording about the ‘incident’ seemed to travel around the world with the image,” Shobe said. “I never wrote that part either and don’t know who did.”
Shobe added that the person in the kayak is a friend of his in Sitka – who isn't a dentist.
Regardless of his intentions, Shobe said the image “took on an internet life of (its) own.”
He wrote about the experience of going viral in a 2011 blog post that includes the original photographs used to create the image.
Our rating: Altered
Based on our research, we rate ALTERED an image that purports to show a whale nearly swallowing a kayaker. The image is a composite created by a local photographer that he emailed to friends more than a decade ago. It later became attached to false information about its origin.
Our fact-check sources:
Tim Shobe, Aug. 3, Email to USA TODAY
Daily Sitka Sentinel, Dec. 27, 2012, Sitka Photographer Puts Whales in the Forefront
KHQ, Jan. 4, 2012, Spokane Native Photographer Shares Truth Behind Viral Photo
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Viral image of kayaker, whale in Alaska is altered