San Ignacio Lagoon

Mar 15, 2018 - National Geographic Sea Lion


A good day with whales is always a treat. A great day with whales is uplifting, inspiring, and humbling all at the same time! Today on board the National Geographic Sea Lion we were treated with a superlative show to the life history of The California gray whale!

This season has been a light one for gray whale births, and some have already left to start the northern migration to feeding grounds with their mothers. The ones that are still here in the lagoon are curious and friendly, and seeking our attention as much as we are seeking theirs. Time and time again these 12 to 18-foot-long babies would swim around our boats, lifting their heads to be touched, scratched, and even kissed by excited whale watchers. Just who is watching whom here? I wonder…

Personally, the highlight of our time in these protected waters was the opportunity to see and photograph actual gray whale mating behavior! In Gray whales it usually takes three to make this work, two males and a single female. The males actually sandwich the female between them as she presents her belly up to the surface of the water. One male will then extend his penis out of the water and towards her upturned body, seeking the proper location to penetrate. Flukes are flashing, water is spraying, and “Pink Floyd” is in search of the proper spot, waving in the air like a bright rose-colored sea serpent. In the end the mark was found, much to the excitement and approval of all of us whale voyeurs! Bravo!

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About the Author

Michael Nolan

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Michael Nolan was born in Bitburg, Germany to an Air Force family stationed there. His first experience of the ocean came at age 12, when he learned to snorkel in the Italian Mediterranean. At age 17 he moved to Tucson, Arizona and became a PADI SCUBA instructor, before starting a SCUBA diving business that specialized in diving trips to the Sea of Cortez.

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