2009 Life at Campo Cortez
By Caroline Armon
April 10, 2009
Hola from Laguna San Ignacio! Spring is here, it’s warming up, and I’m not wearing socks anymore! Although I have them handy as I start my migration north with the last of the gray whales…
In the Salish Sea we naturalists say we love September whales. Well I love April whales too! In both cases, the end of the whale watching seasons, the whales seem very active, the lighting and weather is beautiful.
There are still at least 7 pairs of moms with calves here, and 5 of those pairs are very friendly! We are still going out to the mouth of the lagoon and into the ocean where the whales are gathering. One trip out, a young mom wanted attention more her calf- she was very relaxed and mellow, she stayed by the side of our panga for over an hour, while her calf swam back and forth, dancing, rolling over mom. We all had so much fun getting soaked by surfing with the whales and mom’s blows! We saw them again with 4 other pairs of moms and calves, who were jostling for position next to the panga, vying for our attentions! Incredible - huge mamas and their rolly polly calves lined up on one side of our little 22 foot panga!! It was overwhelming to watch them go back and forth, rub under the boat, keep count and track of 10 whales within a hand’s reach! We started to drift into the sandbar surf with the flooding tide, so Roberto moved the boat, whales followed like submarines charging! We finally had to break off and head back to camp, the whales followed for a bit, leaving us with one of the calves spy hopping like ‘where are you going? We were having so much fun playing with you!’ We hollered “see you tomorrow!” The calves have been breaching a lot too; not just a few times, but several breaches in a row, really building up their strength and stamina.
People ask me when I think the best conditions for whale interactions are, morning or afternoon. The state of the tide and wind seem to be the most influential factors, in my experience. My favorite time is slack tide, that magical window at the end of the tidal cycle, where the water can be like a glass pond. Those times have been the best whale encounters. These intelligent animals are so aware and in harmony with their environment, their survival depends on it.
I like to share quotes that inspire me, and I leave you with one of my own in response to the question of why I think gray whales approach us humans, known predators:
I think gray whales are the ambassadors of our water planet. That which you experience, come to know, touch and are touched by; you care for… Now you are the ambassadors… Carolina
P.S. The photo that looks like a chalk outline of a mama and baby gray whale is made out of shells, by the airstrip at the lagoon! Thanks go to Carolyn for sending me the photo to share with you!