A Minke Whale Accompanied a Lone Paddler for Hours in a Gentle and Friendly Encounter

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A Minke whale accompanied paddler Jodie Nelson on her 40 mile, 9 hour trip between Dana Point, Ca and Catalina Island

(This event took place in March 2010)
Researchers categorize Minke whales as being both elusive and curious. These little baleen whales are adaptable, eating a variety of items from tiny plankton to small schooling fishes, and the population (estimated to be a little over 600*) along the coast of California is part of a group known to be ‘residential’ – that is, they stay in one general area all year round. They tend to be seen as solitary individuals, which may approach boats but inevitably disappear beneath the surface after a few breaths.
Yet a year ago one of these locally scarce, elusive little whales joined paddler Jodie Nelson for two hours as she paddled the 40 mile race from Avalon on Catalina Island to Dana Point on the mainland of California. Jodie had dedicated her efforts both to raise funds for breast cancer research, and as a tribute to her paddling partner who had recently died unexpectedly. It took her nine hours, and you can’t help but wonder at what an incredible boost she must have felt by the companionship of that whale.

Karen Wrenn Catalina Challenge Minke Whale Experience
“The Minke whale that joined me for almost two hours on my 39.8 mile journey from Avalon to Dana Point was swimming below me in the clear water. I could see the whales eyes looking at me, its tail would be at times right under and in front of my [board]. I just had to trust the whale and keep paddling.” Jodie Nelson (finished in a little over 9 hours)

The whaling nations continue to hunt these benign whales, but increasingly popular sentiment is against it and some day those countries will see the wisdom in changing from whale hunting to whale watching instead to boost their economies and provide jobs. There is nothing admirable in killing any animal just because you can, or because it is big, or you want to decorate your house with animal parts…but when it comes to something so gentle and intelligent as whales and dolphins are known to be then it is just senseless.
*According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, The number of minke whales is estimated as 631 (CV = 0.45) based on ship surveys in 1991, 1993, and 1996 off California
The Northeast Pacific Minke Whale Project reports that The CA-OR-WA stock is ‘resident’, consisting of small, and possibly isolated populations.

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