Friday, October 31, 2008

Touch of Gray

Spring 2008
In the warm water lagoons of Baja California baby Gray Whales often approach excited whale watchers seemingly to initiate human contact. I am quite sure that this newborn Gray Whale calf has no idea that the human touching its nose is Serge Dedina, author of the book Saving the Gray Whale and one of the early proponents of stopping the plans by Mitsubishi to build a salt mining operation within San Ignacio Lagoon.
In fact calves seem to seek out human touch below as well as above the water.
These encounters often last for many minutes, sometimes even hours, as curious Gray Whales seem to be as interested in humans as we are in whales. That they seem to actually seek out contact is what makes the experience so unique.
I have had the please and privilege to watch this young man grow up in San Ignacio lagoon. I first met Daniel Aguilar when he was a young boy who loved two things: soccer and whales. Now he has followed in his fathers footsteps and is one of the best panga drivers and whale guides in the lagoon!
Gray Whale calves seem to have a fascination with outboard motors as well, often rubbing their rostrums against the propeller or the hull itself.
Here is Antonio Aguilar, one of the first pangeros to embrace interactions with people and Gray Whales showing that these encounters were neither dangerous or aggressive for humans or whales. In the space of only three or four generations we have gone from hunting and killing Gray Whales here in these lagoons to the idea of protecting and saving them. An amazing transition for man and whale both!

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Catching air!

March, 2008
Spring is in the air and Gray Whales here in the lagoons are jumping for joy! It is especially fun to watch as newborn calves learn how to properly breach - throwing their bodies out of the sea and into the air. This sub-adult is also adding a half-twist to the breach!
This 4 to 6 week old has finally gotten the hang of it and managed to breach half a dozen times in a row!
This calf has learned a new twist in its efforts to breach. It may not be catching the air that some of the other young whales are getting, but it has learned to fill its mouth with water and let it stream out as it leaps! That certainly qualifies for extra style points...
Look at the arching back and height that this calf is achieving...nice form!
Adult Gray Whales will occasionally breach, but spy-hopping let's them get their bodies into the air without all the energy requirements of a breach. The added benefit is that they can lift their bodies high enough out of the water to get a good look around...
Just whom is watching whom here? A question I have asked myself over an over again!

Seeing Gray

Spring 2008
Eye to eye with a curious California Gray Whale. It is magical moments like this that have kept me coming to these warm water lagoons since 1988 to interact and film such amazing whales!

When it all comes together, when the whale is as interested in me as I am in it, this is where the connection is created.

Why would an animal that was hunted to near extinction twice in the last 150 years in these exact same lagoons now trust and even initiate an encounter with humans?

Using the same types of boats (without the outboard motors of course) that Gray Whales were hunted from in the 1800's and early 1900's people now come from all over the world to witness the power and grace of these creatures.

These whales were so violent and dangerous towards humans trying to hunt them that they were often called "devil fish." Today these gentle giants have apparently forgotten (or forgiven) and their curiosity about us leads to spectacular encounters.

The curiosity of a calf makes people of all ages and backgrounds scream and laugh out loud with delight!

Just try and contain yourself when a Gray Whale chooses your boat to inspect...I dare you! Even the most jaded observer can't help but get caught up in the exuberance of the moment. So come on down and see for yourself! I will be with these marvelous creatures again in 2009 on a Remarkable Journey starting March 28. For details go to for details of how you can get caught up in the excitement too!