Cetaceans: Gray’s beaked whale at sea off Chubut, Patagonia, Argentina.

During the morning of 5th February 2019 our ship was cruising along the continental shelf South of the Valdes Peninsula, Patagonia. We were on our way to Antarctica from Buenos Aires. I hadn’t found any information about cetacean sightings from previous cruises and wondered which, if any might put in an appearance.

Having only boarded the previous day I set out to try and find a good place from which to seawatch and headed down to one of the open areas on starboard deck 5 to look ahead. At 09.02 I picked up two beaked whales around 150 metres away, first logging, then slowly swimming towards the ship. They had mid-brown coloured bodies with no obvious scarring, and their most obvious feature was a long white beak, which protruded through the water at a steep angle as they rolled to breathe. At this point I cursed at not having brought the camera down from our cabin, but the whole encounter lasted only a few minutes and I felt elated at even just managing to see a beaked whale species which I didn’t recognise.

Immediately after the animals had disappeared field notes were taken and I viewed the beaked whale identification PDF’s which were scanned into my phone before the trip. It was pretty obvious given the long white beaks and their steep angled protrusion through the water, cited as 50 degrees, that the best candidate was Gray’s beaked whale Mesoplodon grayi. With no signal on board I had to wait until we arrived back in Buenos Aires a couple of weeks later to see what could be gleaned from the internet. The available descriptions, range and photographs online matched, though some photos depicted darker bodied animals than I’d seen, this probably varies with lighting conditions. My notes are below.

Gray’s beaked whale notes.


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