Whale watching has always been an extraordinary way in which one can observe the sea giants and their behaviour in their habitat. However, one group of whale watchers in California, experienced more than they bargained for on their trip to the coast of Dana Point.
Everyone aboard the boat, including the crew, was left stunned as they witnessed a Gray whale give birth to a calf right before their eyes. After spotting a gray whale thrashing in the water, all members aboard Captain Dave's Dolphin & Whale Watching Safari thought they might be witnessing a predatory event. But, after seeing what they thought was red and orange kelp in the water, a whale calf came to the surface. It was then that everyone realised the once-in-a-lifetime event that they had the privilege to see.
Captain Dave Anderson, owner of Captain Dave's Dolphin & Whale Watching Safari said, “As far as I know, no one has filmed a gray whale giving birth or even seen it before. We were right there when it happened. We have footage of the whale bringing her calf over to our boat.”
In the video circling the internet, passengers on the boat can be heard expressing their amazement as the whale approaches with her baby.
Alisa Schulman-Janiger, who runs the Los Angeles chapter of the American Cetacean Society's Gray Whale Census and Behavior Project, shared her insights about the video with NPR, saying, “The mom is holding the calf up, supporting it so the calf can rest and actually helping it be able to take a breath.” She also noted how important these initial moments are for bonding between mother and calf.
The calf is seen nuzzling against its mother to create a bond. While whales can't smell each other like land animals do, their skin is quite sensitive, so the rubbing creates a sensory bond. As it takes 24 hours after birth before the soft fluke of the calf becomes rigid, the mother also needs to guide it through the water. This is why the calf often appears to be riding on its mother's back in the video.