Western Gray Whale Research Camp: Whales Games

After 22 days of bad weather on Piltun (including fog, rain, and wind), evening of August 19th gave us a hope that we will finally get a chance to have some working days in August before the end of our expedition.

The wind died down, fog disappeared and we finally were able to see the stars. We were right in terms of our weather prediction, and on the next morning all excited we jumped into our research boat and went out to the sea. Our day was full of luck and adventures.

At first, we sighted two new (for this year) mother-calf pairs, and one calf that already separated from its mom. This calf seemed small even compared to other calves of this year, and we decide to name the little one “Krokha” (“Tiny”). Krokha was playing in swells, and following him in order to photograph, we found ourselves surrounded by huge swells near the mouth of lagoon, and we made a quick decision to move away, so we could avoid a dangerous situation of being flipped over.

Six kilometers south of lighthouse, we saw two more mother-calf pairs and one weaned calf. One of this pairs was new for this year. They were interacting with each other and playing in swells just 50 m from shore, showing heads, flukes and pectoral fins above the water.

At first, whales did not pay attention to us, but soon they approached our boat too close, and it was better for us just to keep the engine off and not to move. Two meters from us, one of the mom raised her head above the water, and her calf swam under the boat. They spent some time rolling around our boat, but then something unexpected happened.

One of the calves (that already separated from his mom) dove under the boat and lifted it with its back, and then continued playing with other whales next to us. It made us to really feel how small we are compared to these huge animals, and took for us a few minutes to sort all thoughts out in our heads.

We decided not to play their games and left the group. On the way back, we photographed a whale that was new for our catalog. Happy and overwhelmed with our emotions and lots of photographs and biopsies from two calves we came back to our research camp to tell to the rest of the team about our lucky day.

-- Lena and the International Fund for Animal Welfare Western Gray Whale Piltun Team:

Dolgova Evgeniya,
Sidorenko Maksim,
Sychenko Olga,
Vorob’ev Vitalii,
Fedin Dmitrii,
Sereda Aleksei

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Experts

Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Dr. Ralf (Perry) Sonntag, Country Director, Germany
Country Director, Germany
Isabel McCrea, Regional Director, Oceania
Regional Director, Oceania
IFAW Japan Representative
IFAW Japan Representative
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Whales