During a whale-watching tour in California, something unique happened. Tourists had a once-in-a-lifetime sighting off the coast of Dana Strands Beach in Dana Point in the western United States. It is a popular spot for gray whales and one was soon spotted. It swam to the boat when something extraordinary happened. The mother gave birth to a calf, which she proudly showed afterwards. Although many tourists thought it was something completely different.
Initially, the sighting appeared to be a typical migrating gray whale. As the boat slowly approached the animal, our crew noticed it behaving erratically. Passengers and crew noticed something orange and red in the water that they thought was kelp. Instead, a newborn calf surfaced.
For a minute, many of the tourists thought it could be a shark or a predatory event. But no, instead of the end of life, it was the beginning of a new life! After surfacing, the newborn calf began to learn to swim and bond with its mother. The female even brought the calf to the boats as if to show her offspring and say hello.
Gray whales prefer to give birth in the warm and protected lagoons of Baja California in southern Mexico. The lagoons provide safety from predators such as killer whales, but also warm water for calves that have not yet built up a thick blubber layer. While some gray whales in Baja give birth, there are times when calves just don't want to wait and are born during the migration.
Gray whales migrate annually along the west coast of the US, swimming 15,000 to 20,000 miles round trip. It is one of the longest migrations of any mammal. The whales travel from their feeding grounds in Alaska's Bering and Chukchi Seas to Baja's mating and natal lagoons, and back again.
Gray whale calves are about 15 feet long when they are born and will gain more than 50 pounds per day if they feed on their mother's milk. Gray whale mothers can lose 30% of their body weight by nursing one calf on milk containing more than 50% fat. Gray whale adults average between 12 and 15 meters in length and weigh 30 to 40 tons.