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July 13, 2010

Whale in the Straits

BY: Silvia García


© OCEANA / Carlos Suárez


We left Chipiona early to return to the Mediterranean as soon as we finished our work in the Gulf of Cadiz. It’s a long trip so everyone’s relaxed, working on the computers or resting or on deck, as always, looking for cetaceans. When we crossed the Straits on our way to Cadiz a few days ago, the seas were so rough it was impossible to do any sightings. This time was different.

Almost leaving the Straits, in the Bay of Algeciras, between huge cargo ships, fishing boats (some on their way to Tarifa), recreational yachts and even the beautiful Americo Vespuccio, the Italian school ship, huge and made of wood, we saw something blowing in front of us in the water, it looked like a it could be whale. We quickly grabbed our cameras and binoculars and, yes, it was a spectacle for sore eyes, more impressive than we imagined. A fin whale, 18 or 20 meters long, breaks through the surface of the water just a few dozen meters away from us. It’s heading in the opposite direction and swimming at high speed and we quickly realise that turning around to try to reach it is out of the question. But we see it jump out of the water four times, almost rising completely out of the water.

It is not rare to see these magnificent animals, the second largest cetaceans in the world after the blue whale, in the Mediterranean, especially off the coasts of France and Italy during the summer months, where over 3,000 individual congregate to feed. But this behaviour, jumping out the water, is a rare sight to see; for most of us, it was the first time and probably the most amazing thing we’ve seen in our lives.