Mother whale and calf. Blood is visible in the water. Photo courtesy of Marine Mammal Research Program, NOAA permit: #20311-01

The humpback whale calf is so new that its dorsal fin and tail flukes appear soft and flimsy, and its mother is still excreting blood, while sometimes supporting the calf on her back. The rare video minutes after birth was captured by the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Marine Mammal Research Program in January, according to UH press release.

MMRP Director Lars Bejder was using a drone to shoot video of other humpback whales off the coast of Maui (under a permit from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) when he got a call from one of the local tour operators.

“They had just seen all this whitewater and commotion in the water and weren’t quite sure what it was and suddenly there was all this blood in the water, which made us go over there and that’s what we discovered — a newborn calf,” Bejder said.

It was the closest the marine mammal researcher had been to a live birth in 25 years.

“I think everybody can appreciate these kinds of footages, and it brings us closer to these animals and gives us a really majestic view of these creatures,” he said. “I think it’s pretty spectacular.”

The MMRP studies the effects of climate change, human activities and prey availability on whales and dolphins.