Nona Reimer spends a good four days out on the ocean each week.
And, on Tuesday, her vigilance paid off when she experienced an unusual display from a minke whale just about 15 minutes up the coast from Dana Point Harbor,
Reimer, a naturalist for Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whale Watching, described the idyllic scene as it occurred around 10 a.m. on an overcast day with smooth-as-glass ocean water.
“Over to my left, I saw an enormous splash,” she said. “I yelled to the captain, ‘Did you see that?’”
Typically whales doing acrobatics are humpbacks, well known for their large and long pectoral fins. Sometimes gray whales also get in on the fun.
But, what Reimer and Capt. Tommy White aboard the Dana Pride saw didn’t look like either. Instead, it was a minke whale.
Minke whales are known for their sleek look. They are among the smaller of the baleen whales, weighing up to 50,000 pounds. They are common off the West Coast and Alaska.
“Minke whales have white bands on their pectoral fins, they also have white belly sides,” Reimer said.
As they got closer, they were sure it was a minke because of a strong odor of dead fish.
Minke whales are known to be “stinky” because of the huge amount of fish and shellfish they eat, Reimer said.
“When a whale exhales, it’s not coming from its stomach,” she said. “It’s coming from their lungs. With the minke, every orifice has that odor.”
The whale, which had already breached more than five times, just kept going, she said. “In the end, it breached at least 11 times.”
The reason whale breach isn’t really known, but there are a few expert opinions on why. During courtship when several males have designs on a female it might be done, or as a way to rid themselves of pesky barnacles.
“These animals live in a world of zero gravity,” Reimer said, adding she had a recent conversation with a whale expert on this very topic. “The only time they really feel gravity is when they come down. The reason they may do it could be just the same as when a person rides a roller coaster.
“I like to answer, the reason a whale breaches is because it can,” she said.
Reimer said she saw a minke whale breach once three years ago, and then a decade prior, she saw another breach several times.
“It’s extremely unusual to see a minke do this,” she said.
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