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A Whale of an Adventure!

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Conservation | Whale Watching | Mammals

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


As a marine mammal enthusiast, going whale watching is probably one of my most favorite things to do. At the Aquarium, we strive to educate our guests about all different types of marine mammals but you can’t really appreciate their true size and beauty until you’ve seen these magnificent animals up close! Not only that, but there’s a good chance you’ll see other animals on the journey, such as dolphins, California sea lions, or maybe a harbor seal or two.

Over the past few weeks I’ve heard some great stories from my co-workers about what animals were spotted during their excursions, so I was trying to find some time in my schedule to get out there and see some whales. I was absolutely thrilled when my supervisor approached me and asked if I’d like to go out and assist on one of the Aquarium’s whale watch trips. Would I like to go on a whale watch? ABSOLUTELY!

We had barely made it out of the harbor when we spotted our first pod of dolphins – Pacific bottlenose dolphins to be more specific. They came over and started riding the bow of the boat, making it very easy to get a great view! They seemed to be just as curious about us as we were about them because you could easily see them looking up at us from the water. You could also hear them vocalizing with one another in a variety of squeaks and clicks. What a great start to our trip!

A few minutes later, we came upon a second pod of dolphins. These were smaller in size than the previous pod, with different coloration, identified as common dolphins. They, too, seemed very curious as they came right up to the front of the boat and swam with us for a few minutes. Though this pod was very small, on the trip before ours they saw a ‘super pod’ of common dolphins numbering in the hundreds!

We continued to make our way into the San Pedro Channel. The swells weren’t too bad, but you definitely needed to either stay seated or firmly hold on to keep your balance! Scanning the horizon, I finally saw a tall blow several hundred feet away. The captain took us in the direction of the blow, and we spent the next several minutes watching a very relaxed, very beautiful fin whale. Fin whales are the second largest species of whale, with the largest being the blue whale. It remained on the surface for quite a while, taking several shorter breaths before disappearing on a very deep dive. We had several opportunities to view the “footprint” of this whale, which is the calm circle of water that is formed by the water being pushed to the surface as the whale dives. I was surprised how big these “footprints” are! The footprint of this whale was wider than the boat!

By the time this fin whale did its third deep dive, the sun was going down so it was time to call it a day. It was time to head back to the dock. This was my first time seeing a fin whale, which was really exciting. I plan on going again sometime soon since it’s time for the gray whales to migrate. If you’ve never seen a whale out in the ocean, I highly recommend a whale watching trip. By the way, Hugh’s blog post has some great tips for your trip. I can try to describe it to you, but you truly can’t appreciate the experience until you get out there and see these amazing creatures for yourself. By more and more people gaining a unique appreciation for these animals, hopefully we can all work together to ensure the future of our oceans and all the awe-inspiring creatures that reside within.

A Whale of an Adventure!
Dolphins approaching the boat during whale watching trip.  | © Staci Peters
A Whale of an Adventure!
California sea lions are often spotted hauled out on buoys.  | © Staci Peters
A Whale of an Adventure!
Harbor seals hauled out in the sun.  | © Staci Peters

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