On Sunday, a curious whale calf made its way over to a whale watching boat, leading its full-grown mother directly under the vessel.
The group of whale watchers were sitting in a 23-foot inflatable boat off the coast of Southern California when they spotted the 45-foot gray whale and her calf headed in their direction.
“Oh, they’re right here!” you can hear the boat’s captain, Mark Girardeau, say as he captures the moment from overhead with a drone.
“I was trying hard to pay attention to my drone’s view to make sure I got the shot, and I barely noticed the baby gray whale was less than 10 feet in front of me,” Girardeau told GrindTV.
According to reports, the pair were headed to the Baja California lagoons, which gray whales typically use for nursing and mating. Each year, more than 20,000 migrating whales make their way to the lagoons, sometimes travelling more than 15,000 kilometres from their summer feeding grounds off the coast of Alaska.
Their calves are often born along this southbound migration, and whale researcher Alisa Schulman-Janiger told GrindTV that this calf was probably born in the past week. The calf’s young age explains why it approached the boat. It may have just been curious, or it could have mistaken the boat for another whale. In fact, abandoned or orphaned calves are known to swim into harbours and huddle against big boats, leading researchers to believe that they’re looking for their mothers.
Schulman-Janigar also says that, like any young creature, whale calves are easily distracted.
“Time and again, we watch cow-calf pairs off our Census…and see a calf turn around. The mom has to turn and go back and get it turned in the correct direction.”