A drone camera captured the moment a gray whale gave birth in front of a crowd of shocked on-lookers, possibly the first time ever such an event has been recorded.
The amazing scene took place off the coast of Southern California and was posted to Captain Dave’s Dana Point Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari’s YouTube page.
“Our whale watching passengers and crew had a once-in-a-lifetime sighting off the coast of Dana Strands Beach in Dana Point, California, when we encountered a gray whale giving birth to a calf,” the page writes.
“At first, the sighting appeared to be a typical migrating gray whale. As the boat slowly approached the animal, our crew noticed it was behaving sporadically. Passengers and crew saw something orange and red colored in the water that they thought might have been kelp. Instead, a newborn calf came up to the surface.”
Drone footage captures the aftermath of the newborn calf’s first moments in the world as the gathered crowd makes audible gasps of excitement.
The whale watching pages writes that initially, the crew thought it might be a shark or predatory event.
“Gray whales prefer to give birth in the warm and protected lagoons of Baja California, Mexico,” it writes. “The lagoons offer safety from predators such as orcas, as well as warm water for calves who have not yet built up a thick layer of blubber.”
The boat’s captain tells the Orange County Register that the outing became celebratory after everyone realized what had happened.
“The range of emotion couldn’t have been more extreme,” says Gary Brighouse. “It went from horror to pure joy and astonishment, it moved me to my core.”
Gray whales migrate annually along the U.S. west coast, swimming 10,000 to 12,000 miles round-trip. It is one of the longest migrations of any mammal.
While gray whales are regularly caught on camera in Southern California, recorded births are extremely rare.
“As far as I know, no one has filmed a gray whale giving birth or even seen it before,” says Dave Anderson, the owner of Captain Dave’s.
Brighouse also described the group as “lucky” for witnessing such a spectacle, but also shared how he and others were concerned by their proximity.
“We were like, ‘Wait a minute, don’t come too close. That mom wants to protect you,'” Brighouse says.
“Mom calmly cruised between the baby and the boat, she rubbed up against our boat and our boat lifted out of the water, which was a little unsettling,” he adds.