Once-in-a-Lifetime Moment Boat Passengers Witness Gray Whale Giving Birth to a Baby and Teaching it to Swim

Warning: This footage might make you cry.

Whale watchers in Dana Point, California, saw something truly magical on Monday—a gray whale welcoming her calf into the world. The group were on tour with Capt. Dave's Dolphin & Whale Watching Safari when the whale gave birth right in front of them.

"As far as I know, no one has filmed a gray whale giving birth or even seen it before," says Dave Anderson, owner of Capt. Dave's Dolphin & Whale Watching Safari. "We were right there when it happened. We have footage of the whale bringing her calf over to our boat." Here's what the incredible video footage showed.

Welcome To the World

Capt. Dave's Dolphin & Whale Watching Safari / AMAZING ANIMALS+ /TMX

The footage shows the gray whale swimming underneath its little calf, teaching it how to swim. The captain of the tour boat sounds stunned as he explains the whale had just given birth and was now showing off her calf to the tour group. Audible gasps are heard from people on board as the whale swims right up to the boat with the newborn calf. 

Giving Birth

Capt. Dave's Dolphin & Whale Watching Safari / AMAZING ANIMALS+ /TMX

Capt. Dave's Safari posted the video online, with a caption explaining what they saw. "At first, the sighting appeared to be a typical migrating gray whale. As the boat slowly approached the animal, our crew noticed it was behaving sporadically. Passengers and crew saw something orange and red-colored in the water that they thought might have been kelp. Instead, a newborn calf came up to the surface!"

Bonding With Mama

Capt. Dave's Dolphin & Whale Watching Safari / AMAZING ANIMALS+ /TMX

The footage shows the little calf swimming along with its mother as she protectively hovers underneath it. "For a minute, many of us thought it may be a shark or predatory event," the caption continues. "But no, instead of the end of life, it was the beginning of a new one! After surfacing, the newborn calf began learning how to swim and bonding with its mother. The female even brought the calf over to the boats as if to show off her offspring and say hello."

Premature Birth

Capt. Dave's Dolphin & Whale Watching Safari / AMAZING ANIMALS+ /TMX

The Safari group continues to explain why whales prefer warm water for birthing calves. "Gray whales migrate annually along the U.S. west coast, swimming 10,000 to 12,000 miles round-trip. It is one of the longest migrations of any mammal. The whales travel from their feeding grounds in the Bering and Chukchi Seas near Alaska to the mating and birthing lagoons of Baja and back again. Gray whales prefer to give birth in the warm and protected lagoons of Baja, California, and Mexico. The lagoons offer safety from predators such as orcas, as well as warm water for calves who have not yet built up a thick layer of blubber. Although some gray whales do give birth in Baja, there are times when calves just won't wait and are born during the migration."

Growing Fast

Capt. Dave's Dolphin & Whale Watching Safari / AMAZING ANIMALS+ /TMX

The little calf won't stay little for long. "Gray whale calves are about 15 feet long when they're born and will gain over 50 pounds a day feeding on their mother's milk. Gray whale mothers can lose 30% of their body weight, nursing one calf on milk that contains over 50% fat. Gray whale adults average between 40 to 50 feet in length and weigh 30 to 40 tons."

TMX contributed to this story.
Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more
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