It’s been quite a week for Chelsea Crawford of Hamilton, Ont.

Her 20th birthday is Thursday. She’s living in Baja, Calif., teaching English and doing volunteer work.

And on the weekend, a whale slapped her in the face.

Crawford is in Baja with Live Different, a Hamilton-based charity that sends students on leadership excursions like the one in Baja. The Bridgewater, N.S. native took a year off from studying international development at Dalhousie University to move to Hamilton for the program. She's teaching English and doing volunteer work in Baja.

Crawford and seven Live Different colleagues went on a whale-watching trip in Guerrero Negro on Saturday, and the whales got a little closer than expected. They were swimming around the boat, being playful. Some members of Crawford's group even leaned over the boat and petted them.

“We were about to leave and I said, ‘Aww, man, I didn’t get to pet one,’” Crawford said. Then a tail flipped up and slapped her in the face.

“It wasn’t an aggression thing,” she said. “The whale was just playing and its tail came up.”

Crawford describes the tail as “really boney. I was expecting more fish characteristics, but it was really hard.”

She had a bump on her head and a bruise on her shoulder for a couple of days. She likens it to getting hit in the head with a basketball. “I’ve definitely experienced worse.”

Everyone on the boat was concerned about her well-being. Her eyes welled up behind her sunglasses, she said, and “I think I was in a little bit of shock.”

Her friend caught it on video and uploaded it to YouTube on Sunday. As of Wednesday afternoon, it has about 827,000 views. It’s spread around the internet, and appeared on news shows as far as Australia. 

Crawford has a sense of humour about it.

“I don’t even know what to think,” she said. “We really just wanted Live Different and everyone in Hamilton and our family and friends to see it.

"We thought it would get 100 views."