Calgary

Whale that killed Calgary's Jennifer Karren in Mexico may not have seen boat

A Canadian who works in the whale watching industry in Cabo San Lucas says the whale that crashed into a boat in Mexico on Thursday, killing a Calgary woman, likely did not see the vessel.

Humpback and grey whales don't have sonar, explains tour operator

A boat filled with visitors watches a grey whale calf on the Pacific Ocean in Mexico's Baja peninsula on March 3. (Dario Lopez-Mills/AP)

A Canadian who works in the whale watching industry in Cabo San Lucas says the whale that crashed into a boat in Mexico on Thursday, killing a Calgary woman, likely did not see the vessel.

"It was a baleen whale, which means it does not have sonar like a dolphin, sperm whale or an orca," said Peter Wilcox, the owner of Whale Watch Cabo — which is not the company involved in the accident. 

Bats, porpoises and several species of nocturnal birds also use sonar, or echolocation.

These animals send out sound waves and when their calls hit an object, vibrations bounce back at them. This allows them to identify where objects are located, helping them navigate and hunt for food.

"That's why never you hear about a boat striking a dolphin, because a dolphin can mentally picture the world around it with its clicking [sound]," said Wilcox.

Peter Wilcox works in the whale watching industry in Cabo San Lucas and says the species involved in the accident does not have sonar. (Janneke Louwes)

Several media outlets have reported that it was a grey whale that crashed into the tour boat. But Wilcox believes it was a humpback.

"This year we've actually only seen two grey whales the entire season," he said.

Either way, both species don't use echolocation.

Wilcox also says there is no way for tour operators to know when a whale is going to breach. The only thing they can do is limit their speed in an area where whales are known.

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