DANA POINT – When captain Tom Southern saw a pod of female false killer whales coming toward his boat, he knew something was going on.
When that same pod began pushing against the Manute’a, he knew it was definitely unusual. What happened next was something the veteran whale-watch captain had never seen before.
“The females came up right next to the boat and all started pushing at the side,” said Southern, of San Clemente. “Then you see this spurt of blood and you think they got something – but instead you see a baby pop out. He was about 2 and 1/2 feet-long and his fins were all folded together. He was lying on his side and flopping around like a fish.”
Southern said the female whales surrounding the baby swam over and began pushing him out of the water trying to keep him afloat. The baby struggled for about 10 minutes and then began swimming around, holding his head up out of the water.
Southern, a captain for Capt. Dave’s Dolphin Safari and Whale Watch, reported the birth to nearby boaters. Soon crafts from all over the area came to watch the baby whale take his first dives.
“I don’t know if anyone has ever seen a false killer whale give birth,” Southern said. “ At least no other commercial boat has reported this.”
Capt. Frank Brennan, aboard the Ocean Adventures, was among the first there after Southern put out the call. In his 19 years working for Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whale Watching, he’s never witnessed the birth of a whale or dolphin.
But what made the sight even more spectacular is how unusual it is to see false killer whales off the coast of Southern California. Southern remembers only two sightings in 15 years on the water.
False killer whales – the third-largest member of the oceanic dolphin family – generally live in temperate and tropical waters. The whales share similar characteristics to killer whales, but look more like a large dolphin.
“This was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen,” Southern said.
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