Aww!
Gray whale gives birth in front of onlookers on whale-watching tour
It was the first time a gray whale's birth was ever captured on camera.
D.G. Sciortino
01.13.23

The folks at Captain Dave’s Dolphin & Whale Watching Safari see a lot of whales.

But they’ve never seen one being born until recently.

When they first saw the pool of orange-redness in the water, they thought a life was being taken.

YouTube Screenshot - KTLA
Source:
YouTube Screenshot - KTLA

But there was actually a new one being born. The boating company said that seeing a gray whale being born was “a once in a lifetime” event.

Captain Dave’s Dolphin & Whale Watching Safari was off the coast of Dana Point in California.

That’s when they spotted an adult grey whale. The whale seemed to be splashing around before an orange and red pool appeared and began to spread out.

YouTube Screenshot - KTLA
Source:
YouTube Screenshot - KTLA

“Many of us thought it may be a shark or predatory event. But no, instead of the end of life, it was the beginning of a new one!” the tour company said on YouTube.

The boat crew and its passengers gasped in awe as the mother whale assisted her newborn in takings its first breaths.

YouTube Screenshot - KTLA
Source:
YouTube Screenshot - KTLA

It wasn’t long before the calf popped up to the surface.

Those on the boat cooed as the baby lay on its mom.

“The mom is holding the calf up, supporting it so the calf can rest and actually helping it be able to take a breath,” Alisa Schulman-Janiger of L.A.’s American Cetacean Society’s Gray Whale Census and Behavior Project.

YouTube Screenshot - KTLA
Source:
YouTube Screenshot - KTLA

Schulman-Janiger says that these first moments in a calf’s life illustrate how the calf bonds with his mother.

The mom and calf were also observed nuzzling faces.

Schulman-Janiger explains that ocean mammals can’t smell so their skin is very sensitive and they have a lot of physical contact as a means of making up for that lost sense.

YouTube Screenshot - KTLA
Source:
YouTube Screenshot - KTLA

Those on the boat also watched as the 40 to 50-ft. mom swam under the 24-ft. boat and slightly lifted it up.

One boat passenger commented on how “floppy” the calf was.

Schulman-Janiger says that gray whale calves are born with soft or “floppy” flukes that become rigid within 24 hours.

YouTube Screenshot - KTLA
Source:
YouTube Screenshot - KTLA

The fluke is what allows them to swim forward. They need to be guided and pushed along before that fluke firms up.

Schulman-Janiger says this may be the only existing video of a grey whale calf being born.

“It’s extraordinarily rare and really, really special for people to be able to share in those first few moments of a young whale’s life. A whale could get to be 50, 60, 80 years old. And this is just the beginning of that calf life,” Schulman-Janiger said.

YouTube Screenshot - KTLA
Source:
YouTube Screenshot - KTLA

It’s especially special to see the miracle of life on display because the gray whale population is declining.

In 2016, there was an estimated 27,000 eastern North Pacific gray whales.

But by 2021 to 2022, there were only 16,650. The steep decrease has been deemed an “Unusual Mortality Event.”

YouTube Screenshot - KTLA
Source:
YouTube Screenshot - KTLA

Many of the whales that are dying are adult females, but Schulman-Janiger says “nobody knows why.”

Watch this incredible video of the calf being born below.

Please SHARE this with your friends and family.

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By D.G. Sciortino
[email protected]
D.G. is a contributing writer in Shareably. She's based in Connecticut and can be reached at [email protected]
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