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‘Once in a Lifetime’ Sighting: Whale Watchers Glimpse Rare Whales in Monterey Bay

Earlier this week off the coast of Monterey Bay, California, whale watchers experienced a “once in a lifetime bucket list sighting”—a pod of 10 Baird’s beaked whales. Baird’s beaked whales are the largest beaked whales in the ocean, but NOAA calls them “elusive and shy,” so this is a rare whale sighting indeed.

Baird’s beaked whales live throughout the North Pacific Ocean, including the waters off the U.S. West Coast from California to Alaska. NOAA says they prefer deep, oceanic waters below 3,300 feet versus continental shelves closer to shore.

Monterey Bay Whale Watch wrote in a social media post announcing the rare whale sighting: “These incredibly mysterious cetaceans are only seen a couple times in a year here in Monterey, sometimes going a year or two between sightings!”

Monday, May 13 was one of those rare, special days.

“While we were hanging out with Humpback whales, our amazing intern Deborah, and lead deckhand Cindy spotted a cluster of short puffy blows, and saw flukes and dorsal fins that were definitely not belonging to Humpbacks,” the post says. “We sat in the area for about 20 minutes waiting to re-spot them when a few crew members and passengers saw one of the mystery whales breach far in the distance! Once we arrived to the area where we saw the breach, we quickly confirmed our guess and ID’d them as the rare Baird’s beaked whales.”

The same day, in addition to Baird’s beaked whales, Monterey Bay Whale Watch boats also spotted humpback whales and Risso’s dolphins.

Baird’s Beaked Whales

Scientists know relatively little about this whale species, but they do know that these animals are incredible divers. Monterey Bay Whale Watch says these marine mammals can hold their breath for over an hour and a half. Baird’s beaked whales dive to the depths to hunt squid and deep-sea pelagic fish.

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