If you believe all babies are cute, you will love the accompanying images of "Baby Floppy."
The gray whale calf was born Friday near Redondo Beach, most likely within an hour before it was spotted off the Palos Verdes Peninsula by passengers aboard the Voyager.
The encounter was somewhat rare because it occurred so soon after the birth. Most gray whale births occur between the last week of December and the first week of January, but sightings generally occur after the young ones have gained their bearings.
"It was the coolest thing ever. If we had been there a half-hour earlier, we probably would have seen it coming out of its mom," said Alisa Schulman-Janiger, a whale researcher who captured the images on a foggy morning excursion. "You could see the pits in its face and fetal folds in its head." (See the top photo.)
The sighting occurred 1-1/2 miles off Rocky Point, two days after transient killer whales were seen in the same area.
That's noteworthy because transient killer whales prey on other marine mammals, including gray whale calves, so mom and baby appear to have been fortunate.
Schulman-Janiger said the Voyager was en route to an area farther offshore, where whale spouts could be seen, when the cow-calf pair suddenly materialized.
From the boat she posted this description on her Facebook page:
"We JUST saw a brand new calf, less than an hour old! Its flukes are still folded in and floppy and thrash around as it learns how to swim, it pops its head high out of the water to catch a breath! Mom is HUGE and very mellow, slowly surfacing and circling and occasionally holding her calf up to breathe!
"I have been on thousands of whale-watching trips, have seen a few very young calves, but never one just after it entered this world!"
She named the calf Baby Floppy because of its limp flukes.
Gray whales are currently migrating from Arctic home waters to nursing grounds in Baja California's lagoons. Here's hoping that "Baby Floppy" becomes less floppy and can enjoy its first voyage to Mexico, and many more.
–Photos: Top image shows Baby Floppy taking one of its first looks at the world above sea level. Second image shows mom and baby, and third image shows the calf's floppy flukes. Credit: ©Alisa Schulman-Janiger