Whale watchers in Monterey Bay recently spotted something out of the ordinary: a large group of Baird’s beaked whales.
“It’s pretty rare,” said Nancy Black, marine biologist and owner of Monterey Bay Whale Watch. “I’ve been studying whales for 30 years and maybe I’ve seen them like 10 times.”
Black said they were able to identify the whales by their distinct short, puffy blows. The marine mammals have bulbous foreheads and long snouts.
“They’re very unusual looking,” Black said.
Baird’s beaked whales aren’t usually seen on whale-watching excursions because they tend to prefer cold waters that are deeper than 3,300 feet, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The whales are deep divers and usually dive to depths of 3,300 feet.
A typical dive lasts from about 11 to 30 minutes, but the longest known dive lasted more than an hour, NOAA said.
But little is known about the whales.
“They’re so hard to study,” Black said. “People just can’t spend the time out there waiting for them.”
On May 29, Black and her crew spotted 24 whales, including three calves, swimming abreast. They even saw one whale breach, she said. The whales dove for at least 25 minutes and then came back up to the surface for about 8 minutes, Black said.
“That was the largest group I’ve seen,” Black said. “I’ve seen groups of 10 or 12, but there were 24.”
Black said she and the crew were really excited when they first spotted the whales, and they let the passengers know they were seeing something special.
“Most people have never heard of them before,” Black said. “The crew was very excited because some people who work here haven’t even seen them.”