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Friday, February 24, 2012

Whales and More Whales

If anyone has a great whale internet site that specifically helps identify types of whales, Hotspur would love to know! Anything with lots of pictures and arrows pointing to anatomical things or very specific descriptions that a 2nd grader might understand? I’m all ears and eyes. Yes, I have Googled – it just makes me more googley.

One site I found suggested that the anus of one whale is positioned slightly behind the something or another – like I’m ever going to get close enough to inspect that! All we see most of the time is the hole on the top of their bodies and sometimes a dorsal fin. Rarely do we get to see a face or fluke.
Dorsal fin gliding past
In the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen numerous (and I do mean oodles of!) whales while sailing south from Guaymas to Huatulco. But whale watching while underway is more of a “rules of the road” issue for us than it is a site seeing pleasure cruise. And although it is absolutely thrilling to see the massive bulks rise above the waterline and spray cumulus clouds of sea water from their blowholes, it scares the doodle out of us to see one of these enormous beasts so close to the boat.

Two whales rolling past
Last year, fellow cruisers lost their boat due to a collision with a whale. The humpback tried to breach while under their boat – right between the prop and rudder. The distressed animal began shaking their boat vigorously like a giant wild mustang shaking off its unwanted rider. Though their boat didn’t sink, it was a disaster.
Thar she blows!

Therefore, we are not very apt at identifying our whale friends. But we keep trying. In the last 4 years, we have seen the faces of pilot whales, sperm whales, gray whales and humpback whales. But as I said before, it is rare that we have seen more than the tops of their backs.

One behavior that we have seen is tail lobbing. The mammal “spanks” the water with its huge fluke. A video I took just north of La Paz, Mexico shows an adult whale demonstrating to her calf the art of tail lobbing. The video is just a snippet because by the time I got my camera up on deck they were almost finished, of course. And I can't load it without super internet capabilities - which I don't have right now, of course. We have seen the dolphins tail lobbing, too.

Two whales (perhaps a mother and tween) came dangerously close to Hotspur, but we stayed our course and they disappeared behind us. Later, we saw them spyhopping – they torpedo out of the sea with their face to the sun and then they crash back into the water, usually on their sides or on their backs. It was fabulous to see – we have only witnessed this behavior a couple of times. I was fortunate enough to catch them on camera from a distance.

It is magnificent when you get to witness this…
and this...

and this...


  1. Here's a couple pretty good sites:

    S/V Kintala

  2. Deb, these are excellent sites, thank you! I would say that these are Humpback whales and that they are 'breaching', not 'spyhopping' at the moment and that the 'tail lobbing' I reported seeing was actually 'tail slapping'. Wow, just can't seem to keep it straight.
    Thanks so much!