For all the gray whale calves spending their first winter in Baja California’s lagoons, having a mom around is the best. But there’s one thing mom cannot do, and that’s caress her newborn with soft hands and fingers. For that, though, there are humans, and those featured in the accompanying footage enjoyed an exceptionally intimate encounter during which the people on the skiff served as pacifiers for a full hour (the clip was edited to three minutes.)
The footage was captured this past week by David Anderson during a family vacation to Magdalena Bay on Mexico’s Baja California peninsula.
Intimately close encounters with gray whales in Baja’s lagoons are not unusual, and gray whale calves often approach people aboard skiffs, with their mothers, and allow themselves to be touched. But the length of this encounter, the great looks at the whale’s eyes (from above and below water in the video), and the opening of the mouth to be stroked on its vulnerable inner jaw and baleen areas are what make this encounter stand out.
(More than once the whale’s eyes seem to close while it’s being stroked. If it were a kitten you’d expect it to start purring.)
Anderson, who runs Capt. Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Safari in Dana Point, California, describes this event as “one of the best encounters I have ever had with a whale in my life. And I have had many.”
Of the mouth rubbing Anderson adds: “Perhaps it is like a teething child who enjoys having his gums rubbed.”
What’s missing in the footage, however, is the calf’s mother, and how she responded to her baby’s prolonged human encounter. Presumably she was nearby and simply didn’t make the final edit.
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