Popular whale ‘Fran’ washed up in Half Moon Bay, possibly killed by ship strike

3 mins read

The humpback whale that washed up in Half Moon Bay last weekend was popular among local whale watchers. It even had the name, Fran. 

Ferd Bergholz, an avid whale watcher, was deeply saddened not only because a ship strike possibly killed Fran but because he named her in honor of his late wife. 

Bergholz remembers Fran as a vibrant, playful whale who loved to breach. 

Over the years, Bergholz had seen the humpback whale with white flukes so many times that he decided to name her after his late wife of 30 years. 

“I went to the Oceanic Society and had her officially named Fran,” he said.

Bergholz said his connection to Fran was cemented when he saw her breaching three times days after his wife’s birthday. 

“I don’t know how to describe it,” he said. “It’s just one of those things. It was just emotional. That’s about the best I can say. It was just so neat to have it happen. I did not expect it. Nobody did.”

Fran’s death also saddens the whale entanglement at Marine Life Studies. 

“The last time that we saw Fran and her calf was this summer, and this was actually the first summer that we saw her with a calf, which is really exciting,” Stephanie Marcos with Marine Life Studies said. “Fran is known to do a lot of surface activity on the water. She likes to breach when she jumps out of the water and lands on her back. She also does this famous Fran stretch that we kind of know.”

Fran was photographed nearly 300 times and was the most photographed whale on a popular citizen scientist website. 

Bergholz said he is saddened to see his giant friend taken by a ship strike, but he is happy to see her baby. 

“For the last five or six years, every year I’d wait for her to come up and hope she brought a baby with her,” he said. “She brought one this year. She brought a calf with her…I hope the calf is OK.”

He’s hoping Fran Jr. will survive to bring joy to thousands more who scan the seas in search of whales.

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