By David Aspinall
An affectionate baby grey whale came up to a boat full of tourists for head pats.
While Terry Brown and Jude Abrams led a tour off the coast of Guerrero Negro, Mexico, they were greeted by a mother whale and her offspring.
Usually very defensive, the mum let her five-metre-long, one-ton baby swim up to the boat and accept strokes and pats off the stunned guests.
With his head up close to the side of the boat, the juvenile giant dips in and out of the surface of the water to get as much affection as possible.
Terry, from British Columbia, Canada, said: “There are no words to adequately describe reaching out and touching a baby whale.
“This was a childhood dream come true, to actually touch and pet a huge wild whale
“This whale would only be about four to five-weeks-old, but they are big babies.
“Mums wait until babies have enough control of their coordination to keep from injuring themselves or humans.
“Co-ordination kicks in when they are about four-weeks-old.”
Despite being protective of their offspring, Terry says it’s not unusual for friendly mums to bring their children up to the boats to interact with humans onboard for their WelcomingWhales.com tours.
Terry said: “This baby’s mother was right there beside him.
“She nudged him up to the boat to meet his adoring playmates, then hung back and relaxed while we entertained her baby.
“Moms, other adults and adolescent whales come to the boat for a scratch too, not just babies.
“They will also tease humans by blowing waterspouts to drench us or perform acrobatics to show off for their cheering fans.”
The playful pair stayed with the boat for about 10 minutes before swimming away.
Terry and Jude have been offering their tours onboard Whalemagic Tours out of Guerrero Negro since February 2018.
Terry said: “It’s like petting a warm, velvet covered eggplant, silky smooth with rubbery blubber!
“Skin and eye contact feeds a deep hunger we humans have for connection, for friendship and trust with other beings.
“These whales are choosing to play with us, not for a food reward but for fun and connection!!
“The whales are in complete control of the situation, coming and going as they please.
“When they don’t want to be touched, they simply sink down into the water just out of our reach.”
Welcoming Whales is an audio-visual project exploring relationships between whales and humans in different countries and cultures around the world.
The shallow lagoons off Guerrero Negro are a safe nursery for grey whale mums to give birth, but in the late 1800s were the scene of heavy whaling which almost rendered the Pacific grey whale extinct.
Terry said: “It’s all the more incredible that it was here in the same lagoons that Grey whales chose to forgive humans for the slaughter which brought them to the brink of extinction.
“It was the mother whales who chose to approach Mexican fisherman in the lagoons.
“Now many ‘friendlies’ interact with humans; mums and babies, adolescents and grandmothers.
“A few generations of baby grey whales have now been raised this way.
“Both whales and humans are benefitting from forgiveness and reconciliation.”