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Dave Anderson has been running whale-watching tours out of Dana Point Harbor, in Southern California, for a good 20 years. Last fall, he noticed something unusual about a pair of humpback whales: A mother and her calf were swimming side by side on their annual migration to mainland Mexico, and Anderson could see, for the first time, that the older whale was essentially steering and protecting her baby with an extended left pectoral flipper.
â€śIâ€™ve seen them swim as pairs together many times,â€ť Anderson explained to me on a sunny afternoon in January, aboard his 62-foot, 49-passenger catamaran, the Lily. â€śFrom this new angle, though, I could see that the motherâ€™s right flipper was tucked in and out of use. It was like the extended left flipperâ€™s only job was to hold the babyâ€™s hand.â€ť This was new information, and it would have been impossible to ascertain from the deck of his boat. â€śBut with this technology Iâ€™m now able to see these animals in an entirely new wayâ€”without bothering them or getting too close.â€ť