We Now Know the Whale’s Name Behind That Viral Golden Gate Bridge Picture

Its name couldn’t be more perfect: Pogo.

San Francisco sits on an important migration route for many cetaceans (e.g. whales, dolphins, and porpoises) as they travel to and from breeding and feeding grounds. It’s this very reason why whale tours in the San Francisco Bay Area are among the most fruitful anywhere in the country. 

At times, a jaw-dropping aerial breach done by a traveling humpback whale aligns with someone nearby who’s able to capture that moment in gorgeous detail. That’s exactly what transpired when photographer Pilar Rordquiez was out on a boat near SF’s Golden Gate Bridge in July and just so happened to capture the moment when a then-unknown humpback whale leaped from the ocean — right in front of the famous structure.

Fast forward a few months later, and researchers were able to identify the whale responsible for the acrobatics. Its name? Pogo.

According to satellite tracking information, Pogo was first recorded in 2012… on the other side of the country inside the Gulf of Maine. (Humpback whales rarely cross equatorial waters that separate their oceanic populations — but Pogo appears to be an exception to his rule.) Pogo, too, has never been sighted with a calf nor been observed with a mating partner; it’s unclear what sex the whale is.

Tracking humpback whales (and, frankly, any at-risk marine mammal species) is vital to the conservation efforts we build around them. Knowing their migration routes and specific feeding patterns allows us bipeds to make sure we’re not getting in their way; it’s this reason why Dungeness crab seasons are often either delayed or ended early, so migrating whales can move through our waters unencumbered by crabbing and fishing gear, all while reducing the risk of fatal boat accidents.

The Marine Mammal Center is currently compiling the “first-ever photo-identification catalogs for cetacean species in San Francisco Bay,” which will use field-collected observation data to help researchers identify individual animals — helping safeguard these majestic sea creatures from human-caused harms previously mentioned.

TBD on where exactly Pogo is at this exact moment, but we do hope they come back sometime for an encore.

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