Skip to main content

Home > Aquarium Blog > Busy Month of Whales

Aquarium Blog: Aquarium Blog

Busy Month of Whales

Stewy's avatar

Animal Updates | Mammals | Whale Watching

Thursday, October 11, 2018

James S.

Orca pods with baby lined up during a sighting - popup
James Stewart, Aquarium of the Pacific

It has been a very busy month for our naturalists on the Harbor Breeze whale watch tours, over the past few weeks we’ve had multiple sightings of orca, a late season blue whale, and it looks like the humpbacks are moving through the area!

We have been so lucky to see orcas off of our coast and have enjoyed the rare experience of finding multiple pods. First we were able to see the Eastern Tropical Pacific pod that ventured up from Mexican waters. The ETPs have their northernmost sightings near Los Angeles and San Diego, and their southernmost sightings down in South America. They are not as highly observed and researched as other groups of orca so it’s difficult to say how far the range of one particular ETP pod might be. Then we had the opportunity to see both the CA51 and CA216 pods. The CA51s are fairly famous being nicknamed “the friendly pod.” They came right up to our boat and we swore they actually gave us a nudge. This behavior is actually Bumper’s namesake, as he has been cataloged bumping researchers and whale watchers small craft in the past. The captain was able to catch sight of them, stopped engines and waited. Our patience was rewarded when they came right up to us. We even had the rare opportunity to smell the breath of an orca. It smelled pretty bad, not nearly as bad as minke whales though. Scientists are still studying as much as they can about the living body of whales, but they do know that the natural bacteria inside their airways is what causes the bad breath, much like bad breath in humans. It was an awesome experience, regardless of their bad breath, to get to see these beautiful animals come right up to us and allow us to film and photograph them. During the same sighting we also were able to spot a pod of dolphins racing away from the area. The CA51s/216s are transient, or Bigg’s orca, and eat marine mammals. Other whale watchers during this past month had the opportunity of witnessing the orca during a successful hunt of dolphins. In the 2 pod sighting we were able to see that there was a very young orca, still very much a baby with the yellow pigmentation on their skin. This pigmentation is caused by a similar process in people called jaundice. The matriarch of the pod trains and teaches the babies how to hunt, and even though it’s kind of sad to see orca hunt a dolphin it’s a good sign that the pod is healthy.

I hope you enjoy the pictures from our new interns, Rachel and Carly, and the crew of the Harbor Breeze fleet. We never know when to expect, or even how long rare animals will stay in town. It’s always an adventure on our whale watches, and our naturalists are ready to narrate, educate, and answer all of your questions. If you haven’t had a chance to jump on a whale watch, or even if you have, come on down to Long Beach and get your combo ticket to the Aquarium of the Pacific and Harbor Breeze Cruises. Take a trip through our galleries and explore over 11,000 animals on exhibit and then board a boat with Harbor Breeze and explore our local urban ocean. Whale watches board every day at 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. right now.

See you on the water!