While sailing along the coast of Argentine Patagonia guests aboard National Geographic Explorer spent a full day in Puerto Madryn in the Chubut Province. A few minutes drive out of town the region remains just as Charles Darwin would have found it when the HMS Beagle landed here over 180 years ago. By midmorning much of the iconic wildlife of the steppes had been checked off the day’s list: Guanacos, maras, elegant-crested tinamou, red-backed hawks, and Magellanic penguins.
But the day’s stars were the mighty southern right whales. Among the sightings included a huge female and her tiny calf, piggy-backing its mum. The curious female whale came right up to our boat and almost rested her chin on the pontoon.
While our guests and naturalists were in the midst of these rare, up-close encounters, Justin Hofman, the undersea specialist aboard Explorer, was diving in the area with the ship’s cold cook, Max Westman. He returned to share a video of his own rare undersea encounter with a southern right whale and her newborn calf.
Each year the gray whales migrate from their feeding grounds in the north to their nursery lagoons on the Pacific side of the Baja California where they rear their young—a time when most species exhibit a high degree of protectiveness. In the 30+ years we’ve been leading Baja California expeditions, we’ve found the opposite: mother whales show a great deal of curiosity around us, and a willingness to let their playful calves approach us. While these encounters don’t happen all the time, they do happen a lot in Magdalena Bay during the right time of year.
Sven Lindblad, founder of Lindblad Expeditions, shared the video with this note:
There are many things I love in life—being a father, exuberant nature, and moments of pure joy.
My 13-year old son, Eric, filmed this encounter in March with his Christmas present—a GoPro.
I believe lots of people would enjoy this. Feel free to share.