By Randal Coombs
A friendly grey whale calf approached a boat so one of its passengers could pet it.
While Christian Miller was on a ‘Snotbot’ expedition in San Ignacio Lagoon, Mexico, on May 20, an inquisitive whale came to say hello.
With its mum by her side, the baby giant shot her huge head above the water and, chin first, approached the boat.
Obviously unperturbed by the incoming vessel, the mum let both Christian and one of his colleagues stroke the underside of her baby.
Christian said: “For an animal this size to swim up to you, and trust you to touch its newborn, this is a life changing experience.
“I have never had a grey whale do this before.
“Ordinarily I would suggest not disturbing the animals by touching them, but its impossible to ignore them when they almost force you to.
“They used to be very fearful of boats as they were almost hunted into extinction.
“The whale’s skin was very smooth and cold.”
Snotbot are a small team who use petri dishes attached to drones to collect the snot from whales’ blowholes and run experiments.
Christian said: “What happened several times each day was that a very friendly whale, either a mum and calf, would swim up right to our little boat, stick their heads out of the water, brushing against us and deeply enjoying human interaction, including touch.
“This can go on for hours, as long as you keep interacting with them, otherwise they get bored, and move on.
“As long as you entertain them and touch them, they will keep coming to do this.
“The whales seem to like a bit of a splash of water and even calling them as strange as it sounds.”
Since commercial whaling has been mostly stopped, many whale populations have been bouncing back to quite healthy numbers.
But now, with ever-increasing human population, boat traffic, exploitation of the oceans, fishing, plastic and debris or other pollution, sound filling the oceans and a long list of other activities, the threats to whales and the oceans are increasing daily.
Christian said: “There are still countries commercially whaling today.
“I hope people do see and realize how amazing, intelligent and important especially whales are.
“One of the biggest threats is plastic pollution, and every single one of us, no matter how close or far from the ocean you live, can make a difference by choosing to avoid single use plastics.
“We also need to push for new materials to be developed, ones that don’t harm our wildlife.”