Hanging with the dolphins and a whale

Finback whales

September 19, 2012 – If you’ve followed this blog over the past few weeks, you probably know that my prime opportunity to watch for whales came while cruising Alaska’s coastline several years ago. Attending to more pressing matters at the time, unfortunately I missed it. Who knew my chance to see one up close and in the wild would occur much closer to home.

While vacationing in Wildwood Crest, N.J. last week, we hopped on the “Whale and Dolphin Watcher” out of the Marine Research Center in Cape May for a three-hour cruise. We spotted dolphins by the dozens playfully jumping out of the water as if they knew they were in the spotlight, and maybe they did. The ship’s captain told us that if we can see their eyes, they could see ours.

While playful, these pesky dolphins were too quick for my camera.

The elusive whale sighting, we knew would be more difficult to spot. But only three miles off the coast, we got lucky and came across a finback whale.

The finback was also quick, but you can see the outline in the water at about 1 o’clock if you use your imagination.

These marine mammals are mesmerizing, and the more I find out about whales the more fascinating they become. Finbacks are the second longest animal in the world and second largest after the blue whale, growing to over 90 feet long and weighing nearly 75 tons. She could have easily lost us if she wanted to, but she stayed with us and the other boat next to us (pictured below) to entertain us for the better part of a half hour.

Perhaps it is common knowledge that both whales and dolphins communicate in their own language, and can do so from great distances, but I learned they are also intelligent enough to refer to each other by name, and to laugh and cry.

Here’s something else I discovered from a link my son sent me from wired.com: Adult killer whales need their mamas, too.

At first I was touched he would send me such an article, but when I read it in its entirety I thought perhaps he was sending me another message altogether. It explains that female whales like humans are the only animal species known to go through menopause and live decades after their reproductive years, and that a recent study shows that the presence of the female whale significantly increase the survival rate of her son, which may be the reason she lives beyond her reproductive prime. Alas, my purpose in this life is defined.

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