On Wednesday morning, two scuba divers spotted something almost unbelievable while diving off South Puget Sound’s Redondo Beach: a gray whale. Their experience was captured on a GoPro camera, and the sighting was confirmed by Pacific Whale Watch Association’s Michael Harris.
Divers Chris Vosse and Chanon Hiatt spotted the gentle giant as they were on their way back to the beach, and got within feet of it.
Gray whales reach a length of 49 feet, a weight of 36 tonnes, and live between 55 and 70 years. Two Pacific Ocean populations are known to exist: one of not more than 130 individuals whose migratory route is presumed to be between the Sea of Okhotsk and southern Korea, and a larger one with a population between 20,000 and 22,000 individuals in the eastern Pacific traveling between the waters off Alaska and Baja California Sur. The western population is listed as critically endangered by the IUCN. No new reproductive females were recorded in 2010, resulting in a minimum of 26 reproductive females being observed since 1995.
Gray whales also make the longest migration of any animal on earth – 12,000 miles from Alaska to the Gulf of California. How this gray whale ended up in Redondo is a mystery. Pacific Whale Watch Director Michael Harris speculates that this individual could be malnourished, or got sidetracked on his way to Mexico. But it doesn’t really matter to Chris Vosse and Chanon Hiatt – they got to see and experience something that most divers will never see on their dive at Redondo Beach.