Whale watchers did not expect to see marine mammals before their cruise boat departed from California harbor.
But it was.
A young gray whale swam at the mouth of Dana Point Harbor on Wednesday, February 16, Steve Burkhalter, Captain’s Dana Wharf Whale Watching told McClatchy News.
And he headed to the whale-watching boat, Burkhalter said.
The mammal took a breath and returned to the water for two to three minutes, he said, which is not normal behavior.
“She obviously knew something was wrong,” Burkhalter said.
Burkhalter said gray whales usually take a few breaths before sinking below the surface of the water.
The captain stopped the boat to drift, and the whale made a U-turn from the harbor.
“It’s better to just stop the boat and let them maneuver around me,” Burkhalter said.
Burkhalter has worked as a captain since 2016 and said whales get into the harbor once or twice a year, usually during migrations to the north.
Young whales hug the shoreline as they make their way north and may accidentally swim into the harbor, he said.
He estimated that the length of the whale was about 30 feet.
After that initial observation he said it was a good day after seeing nine whales.
“Nine different whales are definitely the best day I’ve had this season.” Burkhalter said.
Whales are like “gentle giants,” he said.
So when someone appears next to a person who is floating, riding on a board or on a boat, he said, “Stop, try to take this moment, and it’s usually pretty fast.”