Blue whale off California not only a survivor, but an inspiration

Whale-watching landings in Orange County, California, have logged blue whale sightings daily for more than a month, but one whale in particular has become a fan and crew favorite because it has been spotted so frequently, but mostly because of the apparent hardship the cetacean endured at some point during its mysterious life. “Banana,” “Hook,” or “Lefty” is missing a large circular chunk from its tail fluke and its spine is curved.

Still, the whale seems to manage. It has been seen off Los Angeles and Orange County feeding on shrimp-like krill along with about 2,000 or so endangered blue whales that spend parts of the summer and fall off the West Coast. Hook, the whale’s most common nickname, also was spotted last October.

“Sometime a couple of years ago (or more), this whale had a very bad day–probably a collision with a boat or ship,” stated Mike Makofske, on the American Cetacean Society/Orange County Facebook page.

Beneath the accompanying video, by Dana Wharf Whale Watch, is this description: “Blue Whale seen off the coast of Dana Point, nicknamed “Hook.” The Whale appeared to have had trauma as a baby and got away from what we believe was an Orca attack! We hope that Hook the Whale will visit us often in Dana Point.”

Writes ACS-OC naturalist Martee Shabsin, who provided the image for this story: “He’s a great ambassador, especially for children, that anything is possible. He’s like our Special Olympics whale.”

Dave Anderson of Capt. Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Safari stated: “‘Hook’ has become a passenger and crew favorite. Its left tail fluke is mostly missing, possibly sheared off by a large boat propeller. But that hasn’t slowed ‘Hook’ down! It’s healthy looking and, much to the delight of our whale watching passengers, shows its tail fluke nearly every time it dives.” (See Capt. Dave’s “Hook” video here.)

In other words, nobody can be sure what happened to Hook. Its peculiar appearance could also be the result of birth defects, because there is no visible scarring.

But the whale clearly is a survivor, an obvious showoff, and somewhat of an inspiration.

Image is courtesy of ASC-OC naturalist Martee Shabsin

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