By Birch Aquarium Naturalist Delanie Medina
Delanie Medina earned a Bachelors of Science in Biology with an Ecology concentration from California State University San Marcos. When she is not whale watching or educating at Birch Aquarium, she enjoys snorkeling San Diego’s coast or venturing to museums in Balboa Park and painting with her friends.
The Eastern Pacific Gray Whale’s migration pattern has been studied by scientists throughout the years and is quite predictable. They begin their journey in their feeding grounds in the Bering and Chukchi Seas in the Arctic, and swim along the coast down to lagoons in Mexico, making a 10,000 to 14,000-mile roundtrip migration. Though their migration pattern is predictable, the Gray Whale has proven time and again to be a magnificent creature, particularly when it exhibits behaviors that excite guests aboard the Marietta.
On one recent whale watching cruise, we journeyed out of San Diego Bay on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in search of whale blows on the horizon. We were fortunate enough to spot three distinctive blows about two miles out in the distance, and were thrilled to get a closer look. Upon approaching, these whales were performing a series of sounding dives. Sounding dives are when the whale takes three to five breaths accompanied by short, shallow dives, and then ends with one last large breath and a sounding dive where their tail fluke breaks the water’s surface and is shown in a beautiful fluking display.
Along with this display, we began to count more whale blows within this group of three originally spotted whales. The guests, along with myself, gasped as we counted one, two, three, four, five whale blows. Then, out of the corner of our eye, two more whale blows just a few yards to the left. We had come upon a group of seven gray whales swimming in synchronization with one another!
It is uncommon for gray whales to swim in these large numbers on their migration. Guests were astonished and knew they were experiencing a once in a lifetime opportunity with these whales. This experience is just one of several this season that guests have had the opportunity to encounter, and we are confident that this season will continue to bring numerous spottings and incredible behaviors from these whales.