Mexico

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Template to Clone

February 2017

So many people have no clue about an amazing phenomenon that takes place every winter in Baja Mexico.

Gray whales migrate south every year in the fall, swimming some 12,500 miles down the Pacific Coast from their summer feeding grounds in the Arctic to their calving and breeding grounds in the warm protected waters of shallow lagoons in Mexico. Beginning in the 1970s or so, the whales of their own volition began to interact with humans.

Imagine the reaction of that first Mexican fisherman, Pachico Mayoral, who was fishing in his small open boat on the lagoon waters when he was approached by a huge gray whale that explored the small craft, going from side to side, until Mayoral was brave enough to reach down and touch it. And nothing happened. The whale stayed calm.

An entire ecotourism industry has sprung up devoted to introducing humans to whales – touching, petting, even kissing these wild whales! Let me know if you’d like an referral for the awesome tour group that hosted us in San Ignacio Lagoon. Peak season for whale watching is February and March. Our group camped in tents beside the lagoon, watched the whales cruise by our vantage point overlooking the water while the setting sun lit up the sky, voyaged out on the water in pangas (traditional Mexican small open fishing boats) to interact with the whales, and on the last day when a massive storm flooded the entire camp and washed out the local airport, we enjoyed a well-orchestrated impromptu adventure through remote Baja countryside in search of transportation home.

When we visited in February the juveniles were the ones that interacted most with the boats: five, six and seven year old young whales that delighted in gliding along the hull while excited whale watchers leaned over to touch them as they passed by. They opened their mouths, inviting us to touch their tongues. They rolled on their sides to peer up at us with a large intelligent eye. They would sink below the hull and pop up on the other side, teasing us. Then with the flick of a tail the young whales would race over to another nearby boat to flirt with those whale watchers in turn. Later in the season the protective mothers of the current crop of newborns would relax their guard and bring the babies to the boats, introducing their offspring to the interesting phenomenon of humans floating on top of the water in tiny floating shells.

What intrigues me the most is how their behavior has evolved through history. In the 19th century, the whaling industry discovered these nursery lagoons. The whalers cut off the entrances, trapping and slaughtering their quarry literally to the point of extinction. In self defense the whales became fiercely aggressive, earning the designation of ‘devil fish’ as they attacked their tormentors, smashing the boats with their tails or breaching out of the water on top of them. How, as the decades passed, did they revert from aggression to the charming playfulness they now display?

Since whaling days, gray whales have rebounded from the precarious edge of extinction. From a population decimated down to only 100 animals, in today’s world they number some 26,000.

 

Posted by Carol in Landscapes, Mexico, Seascapes, Sunrise/Sunset, Whales, 0 comments
The Friendlies: Baja’s Gray Whales

The Friendlies: Baja’s Gray Whales

February 2017

So many people have no clue about an amazing phenomenon that takes place every winter in Baja Mexico.

Gray whales migrate south every year in the fall, swimming some 12,500 miles down the Pacific Coast from their summer feeding grounds in the Arctic to their calving and breeding grounds in the warm protected waters of shallow lagoons in Mexico. Beginning in the 1970s or so, the whales of their own volition began to interact with humans.

Imagine the reaction of that first Mexican fisherman, Pachico Mayoral, who was fishing in his small open boat on the lagoon waters when he was approached by a huge gray whale that explored the small craft, going from side to side, until Mayoral was brave enough to reach down and touch it. And nothing happened. The whale stayed calm.

An entire ecotourism industry has sprung up devoted to introducing humans to whales – touching, petting, even kissing these wild whales! Let me know if you’d like an referral for the awesome tour group that hosted us in San Ignacio Lagoon. Peak season for whale watching is February and March. Our group camped in tents beside the lagoon, watched the whales cruise by our vantage point overlooking the water while the setting sun lit up the sky, voyaged out in pangas (traditional Mexican small open fishing boats) to interact with the whales, and on the last day when a massive storm flooded the entire camp and washed out the local airport, we enjoyed a well-orchestrated impromptu adventure through remote Baja countryside in search of transportation home.

When we visited in February the juveniles were the ones that interacted most with the boats: five, six and seven year old young whales that delighted in gliding along the hull while excited whale watchers leaned over to touch them as they passed by. They opened their mouths, inviting us to touch their tongues and baleen. They rolled on their sides to peer up at us with a large intelligent eye. They would sink below the hull and pop up on the other side, teasing us. Then with the flick of a tail the young whales would race over to another nearby boat to flirt with those whale watchers in turn. Later in the season the protective mothers of the current crop of newborns would relax their guard and bring the babies to the boats, introducing their offspring to the interesting phenomenon of humans floating on the surface in tiny buoyant shells.

What intrigues me the most is how the behavior of the gray whales has evolved through history. In the 19th century, the whaling industry discovered these nursery lagoons. The whalers cut off the entrances, trapping and slaughtering their quarry literally to the point of extinction. In self defense the whales became fiercely aggressive, earning the designation of ‘devil fish’ as they attacked their tormentors, smashing the boats with their tails or breaching out of the water on top of them. How, as the decades passed, did they revert from aggression to the charming playfulness they now display?

Since whaling days, gray whales have rebounded from the precarious edge of extinction. From a population decimated down to only 100 animals, in today’s world they number some 26,000.

 

Posted by Carol in Landscapes, Mexico, Seascapes, Sunrise/Sunset, Whales, 0 comments
Sail Into Sunset

Sail Into Sunset

 

We purchased our sailboat RAVEN in 2004 in New Zealand, embarking on what has become more than a decade of exploring the oceans of the world. After cruising the South Pacific for several years, we brought the boat to North America and in 2008 we spent the year cruising Mexico, primarily the Sea of Cortez. This image, Sail Into Sunset, was captured as we crossed over from Mexico’s mainland to Cabo San Lucas on the tip of the Baja California peninsula. Fortunately we had a motor, as there was very little wind – either on that day or, for that matter, the majority of days that we spent cruising in Mexico. Rather than linger in one spot for days becalmed, we just cranked up the John Deere and continued on our way. This ultimately contributed to our decision to make the transition from a sailboat to a powerboat in 2010 – because we were probably motoring 90% of the time anyway! Perhaps the title should be modified to ‘Motorsail Into Sunset’, but that sort of takes away from the romance!

That said, my favorite conditions at sea are intrinsic to this image – the peaceful ambience of a smooth calm glassy sea reflecting the sky. Unobstructed views of the distant horizon, sunrise and sunset, blue skies and cloud formations, moon and stars, all viewed in fullscreen iMax glory. I would lie stretched out on the folded sails along the length of the boom and enjoy the soothing motion of the boat, while scouting out denizens of the sea lazing on the surface – turtles floating with a seabird perched atop their shells, flying fish skittering out of the way of our oncoming hull, a breaching whale, dolphins racing to play in our bow wave.

Prints of Sail Into Sunset are available for purchase HERE.

Nikon D3, 1/250 sec at f/5.6, ISO 400, 14 mm (14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8 lens). Handheld.

Photo is copyrighted and registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. Please respect.

 

 

Posted by Carol in Mexico, Scenic, Seascapes, Sunrise/Sunset, 0 comments
Wave Riders

Wave Riders

The Best of Nature 2016 Photography Exhibition opens this coming weekend at the San Diego Natural History Museum. Since I’m off cruising in the Caribbean, I will miss the Opening Reception on April 30 from 11 AM to 2 PM. But if you’re in the area, the museum is a great place to visit. Stop by the Ordover Gallery on the 4th Floor to see my image WAVE RIDERS included in this exhibition of wonderful nature photography!

Pygmy Devil Rays are similar in appearance to their cousins, the manta rays, but much smaller.  Both belong to a genus of ray called Mobula or, more casually, “flying rays” due to a propensity to breach (jump out of the water) in spectacular fashion.  The pygmy rays are usually seen in schools near the surface of coastal waters.  I have often seen them leaping repeatedly out of the water, making a noise like popcorn popping as they splash down again.

On this trip we were traveling south along Mexico’s Pacific coastline. We stopped over in Ixtapa, which possesses a beautiful curving sand beach well used by local walkers, joggers, children and more all traversing the golden sand in the morning hours.  The surf rolled in, backlit by the early morning sun, and I was startled to see the rays gliding in the breaking waves.  With the sun backlighting the clear aqua water, the rays appeared suspended as if behind the glass of an aquarium.  Intrigued, I invested quite a bit of time trying to capture the shot.  As usual in these circumstances, I was shooting hand-held, kicking up the shutter speed to freeze action.

WAVE RIDERS available for purchase HERE

Nikon D4S, 1/1000 sec at f/5.6, ISO 400mm, 400mm (80.0-400.0 mm f/4.5-5.6), hand-held.

Photo is copyrighted and registered with the copyright office. Please respect.

Posted by Carol in Mexico, Rays, Underwater, 0 comments