Gray whales are special tourists, along the California coast. Here in Orange County, they are sometimes seen in shallow waters, scooping crustaceans and other delectables from the sea floor. They also rely on the Dana Point headlands as a landmark during their annual migration—a circular loop from their summer feeding grounds in the Bering Sea to the lagoons in Baja, Mexico, where they give birth before returning to Alaska the following spring. At 12,000 miles, it’s the most longest (and most impressive) mass migration of any marine mammal. Here’s what it looks like, courtesy of Dana Wharf:
Of course, not everyone’s lucky enough to watch this happening in real-time…but we hit the jackpot today! These whale-watching boats were our tip-off. They had circled the wagons, so to speak, at one end of Aliso Park Creek Beach.
Fishing boats raced to the spot where they lingered. Yachts, too, like this so-called “Early Bird.”
So tempting, to run to the water’s edge, where I could snap a few close-up photos! But my fractured foot’s still healing, so I watched them from a higher vantage point, near the lifeguard stand.
Even from that distance, I had a clear view of a young calf with its mother, breaching and spouting as they made their way north.
Did I wish, for a brief moment, that I was watching from the deck of the Dana Pride?
Boy howdy! I wished also that I was carrying a high-tech camera, with a more powerful zoom. But those were fleeting thoughts, quickly replaced by another: I was bearing witness to one of the coolest phenomena on earth!
I chose then to lower my camera, breath deep the salty air, and listen to the ocean. Let this sink in, it seemed to say, Be still, in this moment.