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When Humans and Whales Meet Up in Baja's Magdalena Bay, the Curiosity Seems Mutual

Brian J. Cantwell - The Seattle Times
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March 16, 2017



Wild whale and American tourist 'kiss' in Magdalena Bay (The Weather Network)

Just off the bow of our 22-foot open boat — what Baja fishermen call a “panga” — a whale spout erupts with an adrenalin-spiking “fwooosh.” Seawater jets into the air, catching the brilliant Mexican sun in a fleeting rainbow.

“Woo-hoo!” I yelp. (Sometimes I can’t help myself.)

As the gray whale’s barnacle-armored back slices the water less than 20 feet away, in the near distance my eye takes in a scissor-sharp line of barren coastal peaks. A thought occurs: This is a bit like visiting another planet, where alien life-forms seem just as interested in us as we in them.

Indeed, for a visitor from Seattle, the burnt-sienna crags of coastal Baja seem like another world compared with the Pacific Northwest’s emerald and gray coastline. And the whales that surround our boat — not fleeing, often lolling just beneath us, sometimes surfacing so close they can look us in the eye — are intriguing visitors from a watery world.

I was on a daylong adventure on this wide and wild 30-mile-long bay on the lower reaches of Baja California. To this coast, after one of the longest migrations of any mammal on Earth — more than 5,000 miles each way — as many as 20,000 gray whales from cold Alaska seas come every winter to mate and have their calves.

Magdalena Bay is one of the places where curious humans pay homage to them. And it seems the curiosity is mutual: It’s common here for whales to come right up to boats, sometimes letting humans pat them on the head.

Read the rest at The Seattle Times

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