Amazing photos of a gray whale floating on its back

Photo credit: Henry Jurgens

A gray whale floating on its back, simply amazing!

Henry Jurgens, a volunteer naturalist with the Cabrillo Whalewatch Program, took these photos on a whale watching trip last week. He was aboard the Spirit, a whale watching boat based in San Pedro, accompanied by a school group from Los Angeles’ inner city. (Even though downtown Los Angeles is less than 20 miles away from the beach, time and time again naturalists meet school-aged children who are seeing the ocean for the first time, which made this whale watching trip all the more thrilling!)

During the trip, they came across this gray whale floating on its back, as if it was catching some rays. Henry said the whale floated so close to the boat at one point that he could barely take a photo because he had his long lens on. (You can tell the whale is on its back because the throat grooves are visible, these are the grooves located on the underside of the head that allow the mouth to expand during feeding.)

Photo credit: Henry Jurgens

This is a very unusual and cool sighting. Most of the time when we see gray whales off the coast of Los Angeles they are in “travel mode,” meaning they are either headed south or north and rarely take time to relax and chill like the gray whale in the photo. But apparently this whale is in no rush to get back to the summer feeding grounds north of Alaska. Some common dolphins also joined in on the fun as you can see in the photo on the right.

I just love these photos. This relaxed position conveys the whale’s sense of serenity and true appreciation for its ocean home. It’s as if this whale is reminding us to stop and smell the roses. He’s saying, take time to float, life is about keeping joy in the journey, the destination can wait, it will still be there after a float or two.

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