Friday, January 20, 2006
Whale Watch - Spirit Cruises
Today was my first voyage on the Pacific Spirit with Captain Tim at Spirit Cruises down at San Pedro’s cute little Ports o’ Call.
I’d never been out on this boat before (though I’ve been booked on it before and even boarded the boat on December 30th before the boat was canceled).
The weather was stunning today. The air was crystal clear, the water smooth and calm and it was rather warm. Captain Tim took us through the harbor area, pointing out the raft of sea lions near the pier by the fish market and then we made our way out to the open waters, past Angel’s Gate Lighthouse on the San Pedro jetty.
Within about twenty minutes Captain Tim spotted a whale, about a mile further out to sea, a little north of us. We caught up to it and were delighted to find a very cooperative whale. It would surface without much of a blow, but would take five faithful breaths and then a dive and a lift of the tail (it fluked for us three times) and then only stayed down for about three and a half minutes before it would repeat the cycle.
We stayed with the whale for well over thirty minutes, following it south as it made a bee line for Dana Point.
On its last but lackluster dive we turned further out to catch up with some dolphins seen further out. What we thought were common dolphins turned out to be much more. We first came across a small pod of common dolphins (at least eight individuals) that met up with the boat and surfed in our wake. We continued towards the larger group that appeared to be feeding. Those were not common dolphins, instead they were bottlenose dolphins. They were delighted to see the boat and though it was a small group (probably a dozen) at least three joined in a few times to swim in the boat’s bow wake.
We had a large number of children on board, and they just scream with delight when the dolphins come up to the boat. A few circles in the area and the captain went off to catch back up with our faithful whale. As we headed towards him we instead ran across another small group of Risso’s dolphins. These were by far the most visible of all the dolphins we saw for the day, moving more slowly and showing more of their heads as they came up to breath and moved around. I suspect there were squid that these dolphins were feeding on. They were definitely staying in the same area, and there were plenty of gulls (but no Pelicans, which don’t eat squid).
I was suprised by the number of Heerman’s gulls. I’ve not seen many of them over at Redondo Beach, but there seem to be lots of them out of Ports ‘o Call. I think they’re very pretty gulls, with their bright white heads, red beaks and waxy gray bodies.
On our way back to the harbor the Captain stopped at one of the buoys to visit with the sea lions. There were two of them on the buoy , both males, and one of them had a huge growth at the base of his flukes. The little kids kept pointing at it and asking about it. I didn’t know quite what to say, since I didn’t think that sea lions had testicles. I’m going to print out a picture and take it into class, I have a feeling it’s some sort of tumor. It was probably the size of a mango - far too large to be a normal scrotum. I hope it’s not an indication of something dastardly going on in the harbor that may affect the wildlife.
The past two trips have had huge varieties of wildlife out on the water, they’re like dream trips where we get to see whales and dolphins. It just makes me so happy that I started doing this whalewatching stuff in the first place.
During November it's all about me writing a novel. Sometimes it's about whalewatching. You know, and then there's other stuff.