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San Diego Whale Watching: January 4, 2019

The legend of the SD Buoy! Is it real?

What is the legend of the SD Buoy anyway? Some whale watching captains believe that California gray whales use the SD buoy as a navigational mark during their migration from Alaska down to Baja. Apparently, the buoy hums as a whistle as it moves up and down. Whales have incredible hearing, so it makes sense that they might hear this bobbing buoy from miles and miles away. Is there any scientific evidence to prove this fact? No, not yet.

We found a gray whale in 500 feet of water, heading south-southeast at a heading of 160 degrees. We followed this whale for a set, and then this whale made a turn towards the east, with a heading of 100 degrees. Interestingly enough, this was straight towards the SD buoy! The whale was traveling at 4.5 knots and fluked on it’s first set.


We sailed alongside the path of this whale and it came up behind us. This whale completely stopped, so we turned around to get behind it. We always like to stay slightly behind the whale so we don’t alter it’s migration course.

After being down for only 3 minutes, the whale came up again and started moving at only 3 knots straight towards the SD buoy.

The whale took a dive, and then came up again. This time, the whale sped up again to 5 knots, maintaining its course towards the SD buoy. We were now in 280 feet of water.

We watched this whale for several more sets as it continued its course towards the SD buoy. Despite changing its speed, this whale really liked to show us it’s tail.

We waved goodbye and sailed home to the San Diego Maritime Museum.

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