Captain Jim Zeimantz said he knew from the size of the large spout shooting into the sky that the whale in the distance would be a massive blue whale or a big fin whale.
But he never thought it would be both – a rare hybrid of the world’s two largest whale species.
The surprise sighting happened about eight miles off the Dana Point coastline on Sunday, June 6, and again early Monday, June 7. The creature is believed to be the same whale sighted off the coast of Southern California 13 times between September 2004 and August 2020, according to Capt. Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari.
That whale, called “Flue,” is a male and his parents are believed to be a blue whale mother and a fin whale father, according to Capt. Dave’s.
Zeimantz said he was out with two passengers about three miles away from where the spout was first spotted, and reached the 70- to 80-foot whale in about 15 minutes.
“At the time, we just saw the dorsal fin and it was different than a normal blue whale fin. There was something different about the whale,” he said.
He also mentioned that there was another blue whale spout not far away, a hopeful sign the whales will have a strong showing this summer season. “We saw another spout about a mile or two away, they weren’t that close together, but they were in the vicinity of each other. It’s likely they were together or the food source there was attracting them both.”
While gray whales have a predictable migration, with most passing Southern California on their way back to Alaska after spending the winter in the warm waters off Mexico, it’s anyone’s guess when, or if, the blue behemoths will show up. Sometimes they appear in the hundreds, sometimes hardly at all.
Zeimantz said he didn’t know about the hybrid whale until he started doing research.
“Since last night I’ve learned more about it, the background about the whale,” he said.
According to Whales Online, a publication that specializes in cetaceans, the existence of hybrids resulting from the cross between the two largest animals in the world was first proven in the 1990s. It also notes that “hybridization is a widespread evolutionary phenomenon in animals.”
The possible hybrid was seen again Monday during a whale watching cruise aboard the catamaran Manute’a with Captain Neal Radia.
Source: Orange County Register