Two large gray whales on Friday treated boaters off Orange County, Calif., to unusually close encounters, which were captured on videotape. These types of intimate interactions are generally restricted to Baja California’s vast lagoons, which are utilized by the cetaceans during the winter for mating and nursing. Such interactions are rare, however, once the cetaceans leave the lagoons and begin their migration back to Arctic home waters.
The top video was filmed by Capt. Dave’s Dolphin & Whale Safari, and shows what the landing refers to as “courting” behavior. But that was not substantiated by Alisa Schulman-Janiger, a Southern California researcher who specializes in gray whales. The second video is from Dana Wharf Sportfishing.
Schulman-Janiger said Baja California’s lagoons represent more of a social setting for gray whales, which often swim up to boaters and sometimes allow themselves to be touched.
Once they’ve finished their business in the lagoons, however, they’re on a mission to return to home for the summer feeding season.
“Generally they don’t do this up here, but more than likely these are friendlies from Baja,” she said of the gray whales in the videos.
The second video shows U.S. Marines aboard the fishing boat, Reel Fun, being treated to a blast of smelly whale breath.
Said Donna Kalez, general manager of the Dana Wharf landing: “Clearly they just wanted to hang out and look at the people and see what they’re doing.”
The gray whale northbound migration will peak off Southern California over the next couple of weeks.