Upper Magdalena Bay/ Hull Canal/ Sand Dollar Beach, Baja California Sur

Feb 23, 2018 - National Geographic Sea Lion


This morning began with a lovely, soft sunrise over the Baja Peninsula and a cool ocean breeze.  Because of the great conditions, it was decided to move our anchorage to Boca de Solidad, the entrance for the gray whales into the Upper Magdalena Bay complex and a wonderful place to watch them.   We all had a chance during the morning to go out into the area of sand bars and breakers in search of whales….and we found them!  There were single whales, still hopeful for a chance to mate but probably a bit too late since most of the available females have departed the lagoons and headed north.  And there were mothers and calves.  It was so sweet to watch one-to-two-ton calves rolling over and over and over their 40-ton mothers or to see them swimming in her “slip stream” alongside.  We even saw what appeared to be a nursing bout where the calf repeatedly dove beneath the mother to take in a portion of the daily allotment of 20 gallons of 53% fat milk.  It was a real privilege to have spent this time sharing a bit of the life of these immense and wonderful leviathans of the sea.

 

During the afternoon National Geographic Sea Lion made her way south through the lagoon and eventually traversed Hull Canal, the winding channel between Upper Magdalena Bay and Magdalena Bay proper.  We repeated the “Great Gray Whale Count” along the way and came up with 8 mother/young pairs, two single whales and 16 bottlenose dolphins.   It was a bit sad to leave our whale friends but we overcame our grief with a sumptuous BBQ lunch on the upper deck followed by an afternoon walk to Sand Dollar Beach on the Pacific Ocean side of Isla Magdalena.  It was fascinating to walk the ½ mile trek across the dunes and learn about plant adaptations, the shell mounds of the indigenous people and enjoy the late afternoon on the dunes themselves.  The Pacific shore was covered with sand dollars, the dead skeletons of bottom feeding invertebrate animals related to sea stars and sea urchins.

 

This was our last day on this epic journey and although some of us wanted to stow away on the next trip, it was really time to pack and go home and perhaps share all that we have learned and felt with family, friends and maybe even strangers.  Perchance we will become ambassadors for our remaining wild places, start a local movement or return to Baja California one day to again share moments with these amazing gray whales.  Who knows?!

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About the Author

Larry Hobbs

Naturalist

Larry has been involved in marine mammal research and natural history education for over 45 years.  His undergraduate training is in zoology, with graduate work in marine biology.  He also holds a master’s degree in psychology and is a certified counselor in the State of Washington.  In addition to his academic training, Larry has spent many years at sea, including two years as mate or master aboard open-ocean sailing ships.  Larry is a professional photographer and his photographs have appeared in Europe, Asia, Australia and Mexico as well as the United States.

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