Spring Training for Baby Whales

Springtime in the Lagoons
The days are warming. The nights are so calm that the tourists in the camps can hear the whales breathing. The calves are bigger and the moms seem more relaxed. The lagoon is now like a big school for the growing baby whales.

Training Against the Waves
Moms position themselves against the current near the mouth of the lagoon and train their babies in swimming alongside — like on a treadmill in a gym. Swimming against the tide makes babies stronger before the big swim north.

Learning to Feed
We start to see feeding behavior in March. The calves will still nurse for a few more months, but they are learning how to snack. The moms show the calves how to “plow” up the lagoon bottom where the water is shallow (about 10 feet deep). Their pectoral fins and tail flukes stick up in the air as they move slowly along, sucking up a mouthful, just as they'll do in the cold northern feeding grounds. There is very little whale food in the bottom sediment of the lagoons, but the water is rich in plankton and algae. Babies get practice!

Getting Along
By now it's exciting to see the calves in tight groups with their moms — all swimming together, rolling over each other, doing headstands and cartwheels over each other, and touching. Some experts say whales don't socialize. What do you think?


Whale calf by tourist boat, getting friendly pats
Caroline Armon
Calf swimming
Jim Dorsey
Tail of diving whale in lagoon
Audrey Evans
Gray whales together
Audrey Evans