SEA OF CORTEZ WHALE FACTS
BLUE WHALE FACTS
Length: 85-110 ft
Balaenoptera musculus are the largest animals to have ever lived on this planet. They are up to 100 feet (30 meters) long and can weigh around 200 tons (180 metric tons). Many of us are familiar with the Blue Whale statistics about how a child can swim through their veins, their tongues are the size of elephants and their hearts as large as Volkswagen Bugs. However nothing quite prepares you for how awesome they are! When you hear their breathing and see them by your boat. Of course we maintain a respectful distance to these magnificent creatures but even at a distance they are impressive!!!
Blue whales when viewed underwater are very blue. At the surface they are a mottled grey color. You can tell when you see a blue whale from a distance because their spray reaches so very high (almost 40 feet). They have a flat broad head and when diving deep will sometimes show their long wide flukes. Here off the shores of Loreto we like to go whale watching on calm days when we can see the spouts even way in the distance.
Blue whales (like Grey, Fin, and humpbacks) are baleen whales. This means they have fringed plates made out of fingernail-like material attached to their upper jaws. They feed by swallowing huge volumes of water containing krill (tiny shrimp-like animals). Their pleated throats expand to accommodate the water. Next they push their tongue (the one the size of an elephant) against the baleen plates. The water is forced out and the krill is trapped behind.
During certain times of year they have been known to eat upwards of 4 tons of krill a day. Here in the Sea of Cortez we have seen large rafts of krill in the water. There are so many it looks like you could climb out of the boat and walk on the krill. The upwelling currents around the islands provide the cold water and nutrients in which these creatures thrive. And where there’s food, there are whales. Even though most whales feed in the summer months, Blue whales must eat year round. On a good year the large rafts of krill provide an ample buffet for these whales.
Sometimes when whale watching we see Blue whale mothers with their calves. The calves themselves are born some of the worlds largest animals. Their gestation is estimated to be 10-12 months. At birth the babies are about 25 feet long. During their 6 month nursing period baby blue whales drink up to 150 gallons of milk a day! They gain around 10 lbs an hour. That’s 240 lbs a day!!!!
There is an estimated 10,000-20,000 Blue Whales left on the planet. In 1918 developments in whaling technology permitted whalers to go after what had once been too big prey. Between 1900-1960 some 360,000 blue whales were killed. In the 1930-31 season alone, 29,410 blue whales were killed in Antarctic waters. In 1966 The IWC (International Whaling Commission) passed laws protecting them, however recovery has been slow. Here in Baja we observe the Northern Pacific Population which is suspected to be around 2500 animals.
Fin whales are the second largest whale, therefore the second largest creature on earth. They are the fastest of all the whales. These whales can reach speeds of 37 kilometers per hour (we’ve seen it). They reach up to 85 feet in length and can weigh upwards of 30-40 tons. These whales are Dark grey on top and have a white spot underneath the jaw, on the right side. They derive their name from their very prominent dorsal fin which is fairly high and curves back strongly.
When feeding these whales can be found in groups of 7-10, but more often than not are found as individuals or pairs. Like Blue whales Fin Whales are thought to feed year round and their spray reaches upwards of 35 feet or so. Fin whales do not show their Flukes when diving deep.
The Fin Whales we encounter here in Loreto are native to the Sea of Cortez and considered a genetically isolated population. It is possible to see these whales year round. In the Spring months they are found closer to shore, and in the summertime fisherman often see the occasional individual out at the local fishing grounds
GREY WHALES, MAGDELENA BAY
In the late winter and spring months we offer tours to Magdalena Bay to see mother and baby grey whales. The mothers are up to 40 feet long, weighing anywhere between 35-40 tons. The babies are born at about 8-14 feet and way around 8-10 tons. Out in the protected waters of the lagoon you can observe various types of behavior, spy hopping, breaching, feeding, resting, etc. Occasionally a curious baby and mother will come over to get a look at the strange creatures hanging off the sides of the boats and even allow them to touch.
PLEASE NOTE: GREY WHALES ARE WILD ANIMALS AND THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO GUARANTEE THAT THEY WILL COME TO OUR BOAT, LET ALONE ALLOW US TO TOUCH THEM. PLEASE BE FULLY AWARE OF THIS AS WE GO INTO THE TOUR. THE EXPECTATIONS OF A FEW CAN IMPACT THE ENTIRE EXPERIENCE FOR THE REST OF THE GROUP AND IS NOT FAIR TO OUR GUIDES, DRIVERS OR OTHER GUEST. THANK YOU!!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIPnAcEO2Us Grey Whales have the longest known migration of any mammal on earth. Nearly 12,430 miles (20,000 kilometers). They feed in the summertime in the nutrient rich waters of the Bering Sea. Starting in the Fall they make their way down the Pacific Coast to the Bays of the Baja Peninsula to mate and give birth. Hence Grey Whales are very much considered to be Hecho en Mexico (Made in Mexico). After the babies are large and strong enough they leave the bays with their mothers to head North.
Unlike other baleen whales that feed off of schools of krill in the open water, Grey whales take scoopfuls of benthic mud off the bottom of the ocean. This mud is full of worms and other creatures that provide sustenance for the whales. As a result they are often covered in barnacles and other parasites that give them their “crusty” look. You can get an idea of how new a baby grey whale is by the amount of barnacles it has on its body. These move from the mother host to the baby.
The bay of Magdalena is also an excellent place to go whale watching from. Within minutes of leaving the docks we are with the whales. Our guides not only explain about the whales, but also the local flora and fauna. Large breeding colonies of Cormorants and Magnificent Frigate Birds roost in the mangroves that line the shores. Coyotes are often seen strolling the sand dunes. Magdalena bay is a nursery to more than just baby whales!
Humpback Whales are often seen here in the Spring Months and sometimes in the Summer. They reach lengths of up to 63 feet (19m) and can weigh up to 40 tons. There is nothing in the world quite like watching a 40 ton animal launch itself fully out of the water and crash back down into the water. They use their powerful pectoral fins (the longest of any whale) to help push themselves upward and out of the water. We often see them here off the shores of Loreto in the Spring Months. Whether its watching them feeding, breaching, fin slapping the water (for hours on end), or just cruising along and checking us out. They are easily identified by their smaller spouts (compared to the Blue and Fin Whales), heart-shaped grey and white flukes, and of course the little “hump” before their dorsal fin, on their back.
Not a week goes by that we don’t see dolphins of the coast of Loreto. Sometimes in the summer their numbers dwindle. This is often because they are further offshore feeding on schools of tuna or squid. Here in the Loreto Bay National Marine Park we most often see Common
Common Dolphins Delphinus delphis and Bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncates. Bottlenose dolphins we often see in groups of 10-40 and Common Dolphins have been seen in groups of hundreds. Occasionally we find Spinner Dolphins Stenella longirostris swimming amongst these pods. White sided dolphins (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens) are another species we encounter here.