Whale Wednesday: Baby Blue - Oceana USA
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October 7, 2009

Whale Wednesday: Baby Blue

More National Geographic love this week, only this time whale-related. Yesterday I went to NatGeo’s “Tuesday at Noon” series, which I’ve been meaning to go to for a while. Every week they show a free short film, this week’s was “Kingdom of the Blue Whale,” and it followed scientists in their attempts to tag and photograph blue whales in the Pacific. Not only was it a nice break in the day, but I got my blue whale fix — which, as you may have noticed, I’m mildly obsessed with — and I was soothed by Tom Selleck’s classy narration. Scientists from Oregon State and Scripps first observed and tag blue whales off California, then in the winter they traveled to the Costa Rica dome, an area of upwelling 500 to 800 miles west of Costa Rica that changes every year. They celebrate after scooping up a blue whale stool sample (it’s red from all the krill they eat), but are also distressed to find a floating dead blue whale, its skin beginning to peel off in the sun. When it washes ashore, they determine that the cause of death was almost certainly a collision with one of the massive ships that travel through the whale’s feeding grounds. But all in all, the expedition turns out to be a huge success. As Dr. Bruce Mate explained in an interview earlier this year, “We had several specific goals on this trip: to find out if the blue whales were feeding, if there was breeding activity and if there were calves there. And additionally, we wanted to see if the Costa Rica Dome is an aggregation area for multiple feeding populations. We were excited to find evidence confirming all four aspects.” Not only did they find out that there were calves there, they were able to get the first underwater video of an (enormous) infant blue whale swimming in the Costa Rica Dome. When a blue whale is born, it is an excellent swimmer right out of the womb — it must swim to the surface for air. Pretty amazing. Watch this clip of the baby blue. It was better on the big screen, but you get the idea.