'One of the most friendly whales we have ever encountered on our adventures with the grey whales,' he said.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on May 17, 2023. It has since been updated.
Most animal lovers dream of expressing their love directly to animals and not just through videos on the television or the internet. Similarly, it was a dream come true for whale enthusiast Adam Ernster during his expedition in Baja, Mexico. After years of documenting whales from a distance, his dream of meeting the blissful blue gentle giants came true. Margarita, the whale, seemed to enjoy the experience just as much as he did, as she made happy noises throughout the encounter. According to a video posted on Instagram by Silver Shark Adventures, a whale-watching company, Ernster was overjoyed to be able to pet, hug, and even kiss a whale. In the video recording, Ernster smiles broadly as he pets Margarita before embracing and kissing the whale's barnacle-covered head.
The caption read, "When you are the one usually behind the camera, [and] finally getting your dream moment with one of the most special animals that you live to document. Safe to say, everyone onboard enjoyed watching [Ernster] get his life-changing moment in the sun with Margarita[,] one of the most friendly whales we have ever encountered on our adventures with the grey whales." Margarita enjoys the rubs so much in the whale-watching videos that she returns to Ernster.
"Known for displaying friendly and unpredictable behaviors, Margarita decides to return for more attention just as Adam thinks this encounter is done," Silver Shark Adventures shares while posting a video of Margarita returning to Ernster's side of the boat. He is visibly moved as he interacts with the whale once more and bids farewell. As moving as the video is, there is another angle from the moment that shows the whale having the time of her life. The original footage, posted on Reddit, features the whale's noises, which can only be described as a "cetacean purr."
Ernster, a seasoned whale videographer, documented his encounter in a longer video he posted to YouTube. Recalling the dream-like experience, he wrote in retrospect, "This beautiful interaction is a stark contrast to the past, where these gentle creatures were hunted to near extinction. Today, they show a unique curiosity towards the very beings that once threatened their existence." He highlighted that a lot of care goes into these encounters. "The locals involved in this highly regulated experience work hard to protect the whales and their habitats, ensuring the health and abundance of these magnificent creatures for generations to come."
Also, Ernster appreciated the opportunity to share his passion for whales with others. The greater public awareness of their beauty and friendliness, the more that can be done to help them and their habitats. While posting on his Instagram, he stated, "As incredible as my experience was with the gray whales of Ojo de Liebre, watching others connect with these giants from the depths filled me with so much hope for the future. I'm fortunate to get to spend my days surrounded by wildlife of all sorts. It’s a privilege I will never ever take for granted. But to see people travel from all walks of life, from all around the world to experience THIS connection was surreal. It makes me more and more thankful for this little blue ball every day."
According to the National Ocean Service (NOS), whales make noise to communicate, locate food, and find each other. "The three main types of sounds made by whales are clicks, whistles, and pulsed calls," the NOS explains. "Whistles and pulsed calls are used during social activities. Pulsed calls are more frequent and sound like squeaks, screams, and squawks to the human ear." Furthermore, in a study published in The Journal of Experimental Biology, marine biologist Sam Ridgway discovered that when dolphins and beluga whales are happy, they make "victory squeals," or child-like noises.