* Note: for equipment and music used see end of video or scroll to the bottom of this post. *

Captain Dave Anderson of Capt. Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Safari in Dana Point, California, at great personal risk, has recently filmed and edited a 5-minute video that contains some of the most beautiful, jaw-dropping, footage ever taken with a drone from the air of a huge mega-pod of thousands of common dolphins stampeding off Dana Point, California, three gray whales migrating together down the coast off San Clemente, California, and heartwarming close-ups hovering over a newborn Humpback whale calf snuggling and playing with its mom as an escort whale stands guard nearby, filmed recently in Maui.

Capt. Dave explains, “This is the most beautiful and compelling five minute video I have ever put together.  I learned so much about these whales and dolphins from this drone footage that it feels like I have entered a new dimension! I have not been this excited about a new technology since we built our underwater viewing pods on our whale watching boat. Drones are going to change how we view the animal world. Wow!”

Capt. Dave had to film this off a small inflatable boat, launching and catching the quadcopter drone by hand where a miss could mean injury to him from the four propeller blades or loss of the drone. He actually lost one drone on takeoff when it nicked his small VHF radio antenna on the 14 foot rigid inflatable he was filming from and it went into the water. Alone six miles offshore Capt. Dave , without thinking , dove into the cold, late-January waters off Dana Point to retrieve the valuable footage taken on a flight a half hour earlier that morning. “I had my hat and glasses on, I was fully clothed with long-johns on to keep warm and my cell phone and wallet in my pocket,” Captain Dave explained. “It was a stupid move, but the copter started sinking so fast it was my only hope to get the amazing footage I had just shot”. Since then he has attached flotation to the skids, which would save the footage, but every flight over the water still risks the DJI Phantom 2 Quadcopter with ZenmuseH3-2D Gimbal and a GoPro HERO3 Black camera on it, as the $1,700 rig is not waterproof and the skids will not keep it upright on the ocean.

“I get so nervous every flight over the water now, after the accident, my hands start shaking,” explains Capt. Dave. “My wife says no more drones if I lose this one. But she said that before I lost the other one. Now that she’s seen what it can do, I think she’s just as hooked as I am”.

“This technology, that offers such steady footage from the air for such a low price and is so easy to fly, is new. This was a ten or twenty thousand dollar copter a few years ago and flying those took a great deal of skill.  I can’t wait to see what footage this year will bring with this drone, getting a different perspective on the amazing sightings we already have off Dana Point. There is debate in many states right now about making use of these drones illegal. People are justifiably concerned about invasion of privacy. But it would be a shame to have this new window into a whale’s world taken away.”

Music:Aslan is on the Move” by David Hollandsworth

A Special Note From Captain Dave:

Attention any would be whale videographers: please only attempt this if you are extremely familiar with whale behavior as it is illegal to do anything that causes the whales to change their normal behavior with big fines- and the authorities do watch YouTube. Different areas have different laws on approaching whales. I am a whale watch captain with nearly 20 years of experience. All laws were obeyed by us during filming. In Maui we sat watching whales from a distance for hours before they moved closer to us. You can never approach them there closer than 100 yards. The Mom and calf as you can see in the film were completely undisturbed by the small drone. NOAA is currently reviewing drones and may create laws or guidelines for using them around whales.

16 Comments

  1. Thank you very much for the wonderful views of the whales just hanging out. When you think of great whale slaughter over last few centuries it should make us all want to totally ban all whale dolphin, shark killing. These creatures are just like us, in all they want is to make a living and be left alone. Surely not to much to ask?

  2. I like & love dolphins & whales-orca whales!

  3. Thanks for sharing this touching and beautiful footage. Wow! What an experience it must have been for you to witness that. With much joy, love and gratitude,Kucki

  4. As I watched your video, I was receiving chills up my spine, feeling the love and joy the dolphins and whales were sending out. Thank you for sharing this magnificent video that brought so much joy to my heart.

  5. What an incredible experience this must have been for you! I’m sure seeing and creating this video was one of the highlights of your life. Super great job and wow! Thanks so much for sharing! It made me cry – such natural beauty we got to witness.

    Years ago it was Jacques Cousteau but maybe now it’s Captain Dave’s by drone! :)

    I will watch it again and again….

    Be safe!
    Dianne

  6. Wow.. watching that was awesome. Thank you

  7. Fantástico,emocionante,maravilhoso,perfeito…Uma terapia,purificação de alma e espírito,a certeza de que Deus é vivo e onipotente,você é um mensageiro do sr.pai; Que ele te abençoe cada vez mais, para que nós possamos ser presenteados com seus lindos vídeos e fotos desta jornada de pesquisa e vida;Parabéns!!!!!!
    Que a orixá rainha das águas e dos oceanos,iemonjá,esteja olhando por vocês;

    odoyá

  8. Amazingly beautiful! Thanks from Brazil.

  9. Simplesmente, maravilhoso. Uma imagem fantástica

  10. Parabéns por estas lindas imagens, a vida no mar como ela é, naturalmente emocionante, um drone sendo muito bem utilizado.

  11. Your web site was emailed to me by a friend while we are all staying in San Jose Cabo Mexico. We have been here since February 7, the month of the humpback migration. We have a unit with Nothing but the Sea of Cortez in front of us. We watch the whales with our Sworavski binoculars from this vantage point. We absolutely love them! We also have taken a sailing cruise with two other couples and saw whales and dolphins. Once, we flew from Cabo up to Magdalena Bay and rode out in a little panga to see the mothers and new babies there. So amazing. Thank you very much for your great effort and spectacular gift to us!

    • I think what you have been seeing are gray whales, not humpbacks. The grays migrate each winter from Alaska to bear their young in the lagoons of Baja California, such as Magdalena Bay, as you mentioned. Glad you enjoyed watching them.

      • Are you referring to the whales in this video? If so, there are two species in this film. A trio of gray whales migrating south off California and mother and calf humpback whales that were filmed off of Maui.

  12. Please disregard my previous e-mail asking advice on equipment as I just saw this link you most generously provided.

    • You’re welcome Dennis and good luck with your aerial photography!

      • I’ve seen video of people who have zip tied short sections of ‘pool noodles’ to the skids on their quads. Not usually enough weight to restrict flight, but enough that you should be able to retrieve it. that or a small partly inflated balloon. No weight to speak of, but enough buoyancy to prevent a total loss if it ditches again!

        I’ve even seen one video of a quad landing on the water and lifting off again. Not sure how well that would work in open water, but better than having to leap into the water after a very expensive piece of equipment!

        Practice in a shallow pool first!!!

Leave a Comment