Playful gray whales gathered around a small fishing boat a few days ago, and a lucky whale-watching tour captured the action on video. I guess the two fishermen in the boat were pretty lucky too, considering that the rambunctious full-sized adult whales didn’t knock them into the water. The adorable animals were close enough to touch and clearly had friendly intentions.
Dana Wharf, a charter whale-watching service, explained that offshore Dana Point is now at the peak of the whale watch season. The gray whales migrate from the arctic to the Baja California, Mexico area, where the females give birth to their calves. Then they return to their summer feeding grounds, calves at their side.
The tour operators are still counting this year’s total, but in the 2011/2012 winter season, they totaled a stunning 492 gray whales.
If you notice that the gray whales look a little “crusty,” don’t adjust your monitor. National Geographic explained that the marine mammals, which can reach up to 50 feet in length and weigh up to 40 tons, naturally have parasides and other growths on their skin that make them look like sea-going rocks.
They calculate the round-trip for the great migration from Alaska to Mexico at nearly 12,500 miles — quite a journey for an animal that size.
The gray whale is a true conservation success story. In the 1930s, the League of Nations (a precursor to the modern United Nations) banned the commercial hunting of the species because it was so close to extinction. It recovered enough to be removed from the Endangered Species list in 1994.
As a result, the species is still here to thrill new generations of whale watchers. Here’s that gray whale video:
[whale breaching photo courtesy Gillfoto and Wikipedia Commons]