Monday, January 07, 2013
Grays Whale use Kelp Forest to hide from Orcas
On New Years Day 2013, four killer whales from the pod known as CA-51 swam past Point Vicente where I was helping out the Gray Whale Census Project spot cetaceans. As I went down to the cliff side to get a better angle on the orcas my wife Pam yelled at me to look down. When I did I was surprised to see two gray whales apparently hiding out in the kelp below the cliff.
Two juvenile gray whales were in the middle of the kelp forest being low key as the killer whale pod (1 large male and 3 smaller orcas) were swimming by about a mile away. One of the whales slowly surfaced while draped in kelp looking like a marine sniper dressed in camouflage. They kept a low profile as their predators swam by to the extent that they even surfaced on their sides so that their blows were at a slight angle to the surface of the water.
When the killer whales had swam several additional miles away what the grays did next amazed me. Maybe it was the relief of the danger passing or maybe it was just whales being whales. While still in the kelp they proceeded to become very touchy-feely with each other. They rolled over, under, and around each other contorting themselves at angles quite impressive for 30- to 35-foot animals. All the while rubbing against each other. They were probably too young to actually mate so this was more like play. It made me wonder if they had actually gone to the kelp to hide or were already there when the orcas showed up and went low profile as they passed. At this age they didn’t have a real need to go all the way down to the Baja breeding lagoons. They could take their time and dawdle whereever they wanted.
They continued this activity for nearly an hour and a half after the Orcas had left. Not a bad way to start a new year.
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