A Stranded Whale Calf Tale
By Keith (Baja) Jones
Baja Jones Adventure Travel

Baby gray whales are usually born in the lagoons of Baja, but the actual birth can occur early and anywhere along the migration route. (Imagine having to drive a pregnant woman 5000 miles to the hospital!) As the population of gray whales has increased, so has the frequency of births that take place during the long southward migration.

Every year hundreds of babies are born early. Some survive, but many probably don't. Four years ago, I assisted a stranded baby off of the muddy bay shore and back into deeper water. He was weak, but still very powerful.

Mother and calf

We discovered him late in the day, after dark. There was nothing we could do to feed the youngster. Our small group of 4 or 5 people pushed and rolled him out toward deeper water. We waded out to our waists and helped him swim free. Later we just stood huddled together on the shore, wet and really cold from the on shore wind. There were tears in all of our eyes when we slowly walked the mile or so back to our individual lagoon side camps.

I was car-camping on that trip. That night, after helping the baby, I opened the back end of the truck and sat on the tailgate, staring out at the black lagoon. There was no fresh water to wash off the salt water, so I felt damp and cold. I couldn't sleep. I just kept thinking about that young baby whale who was probably even colder than I was. Certainly he was frightened and very tired out there all alone in the dark lagoon water. His glistening black eyes and the way they stared so helplessly at our tiny band of rescuers, crept into my dreams each time I dozed off.

The next day, around noon, we came across a mother whale with two babies feeding and playing around her. I am absolutely convinced that she adopted the young baby we helped off the mud flat. I begged the pangera (boat driver) to keep the boat near the trio so I could watch and see if the two youngsters really were both nursing. After two hours of observation, we knew for sure that she was feeding both youngsters.

Try This! Journaling Questions
  • Discuss your ideas for a prequel or a sequel to this story. Think of it from Keith's point of view OR the baby whale's point of view.
  • Compare this whale calf's fate with the true story of another stranded baby gray whale named JJ
  • What do baby whales need in order to survive?

National Science Education Standards

  • Organisms have basic needs.
  • Plants and animals have life cycles that include being born, developing into adults, reproducing, and eventually dying.