Enormous Pod of Elusive and Mysterious Baird's Beaked Whales Spotted Off California Coast

A marine biologist has seen what she believes is the largest ever pod of Baird's beaked whales to be sighted off the coast of California.

Nancy Black, the founder of Monterey Bay Whale Watch, has been working in the region for three decades. She saw the enormous 24-whale-strong group on Thursday. The organization wrote, alongside a drone video of the sighting on YouTube, that two calves were among the pod—the biggest ever spotted by Monterey Bay Whale Watch.

Able to grow up to 36 feet long, these whales usually stick together in groups of between five to 20 whales, but have been found in pods as big as 50.

The cetaceans are thought to dive deeper than any other mammal. They descend to depths of more than 3,300ft, making them tough to study. They can hold their breath for an hour, according to Monterey Bay Whale Watch. Scientists are, however, aware of a Baird's beaked whale diving 9,840 feet, or almost 2 miles, into the ocean for 138 minutes, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"Luckily, they have very consistent diving patterns: they were only diving 25 minutes at a time today, and staying up for close to 8 minutes every surfacing," Monterey Bay Whale Watch wrote on YouTube.

Black, who has worked as the primary investigator for the Oceanic Society's whale and dolphin research, told ABC News 7: "This is the largest group of beaked whales I have seen over the last 30 years, and I have only seen this species of whale about 10 times in my life."

ABC News 7 reported this is the first time the Monterey Bay Whale Watch has been able to capture these whales in drone camera footage.

Also known as bottlenose whales, the cetaceans are characterized by their bulbous forehead—or melon—and cylindrical beak. They can weigh over 26,000lbs and live for more than half a century. While a female can live for 54 years on average and grow up to 36 foot, a male's lifespan can stretch as long as 84 years, when they can grow up to 35 feet. This makes Baird's the biggest of the beaked whales.

The animals take their name from the naturalist Spencer F. Baird. They inhabit the North Pacific Ocean and the water between Alaska and California in the U.S.

Thanks to their diving prowess, the creatures live off fish found in both the open ocean and the deep sea, including saury and mackerel, as well as octopus, crustaceans and sea cucumbers.