I picked up this assignment to step out of my box and tie in some new adventure. I’m curious regarding sea mammals, their evolution, their social order and their surprising intellect. Because I’m a music fan the musicality of whales in particular has my interest. The melodies of Whales have been used by such artist as Pink Floyd, Kate Bush and Paul Winter. Whales melodies can be heard for thousands of mile reaching 188 decibels under the sea. It’s a phenomenal means of communication these mammals engage in that only enlarge the mystery of how their social order works. Their expressions of sounds are musical and emotional in content and are now offering new understanding of the once mysterious and secret lives of whales.
I found the idea of going out to their habitat and feeding grounds an intoxicating premiss I wanted to experience. My adventure started early on a cold Wednesday morning where media and a smattering of parents and childrens were brought together for a special whale spotting cruise sponsored by The Aquarium of the Pacific and Harbor Breeze Cruises honoring the return of the migrating grey whale, the endangered fin whale, dolphins, and other animals. This cruise would focus spotting the baleen whale, which has no teeth and feeds on Krill, copepods and plankton. After meeting my contact and checking in I boarded the 60 foot catamaran where all in attendance were greeted officially. We then given an introduction to the cruise we were about to take.
It was cold and it proved to get colder yet as we exited the port of Los Angeles in the catamaran. The last time I was in this harbor was in 1994 celebrating a family Christmas get together on my girlfriend’s Father’s 30 foot catamaran. It was night as we cruised the Port of Los Angeles enjoying light fare and drinkies. While that was interesting and fun, it’s not as interesting as actually witnessing these amazing creatures cresting at the surface of our world to plunge once again deeply into the mysterious aquatic abyss.
Photo Gallery at the jump
It was a perfect day for a sea adventure, on a calm ocean, where the view was clear for miles with the exception of the smog hovering about the city, casting a fowl presence out past the shore. Things can be seen so clearly from out at sea. We motored speedily through the harbor enduring the brisk and ever freshening air to bluer skies and deeper blue waters. Once we were 3 or 4 miles out was stopped to get out bearings and given some more information about the signs to look for when whale spotting. Our first encounter were with dolphins. There was a large pod for these lively fun-loving creatures out before us. We saw them surfacing while they were feeding.
We sped off again. As we cruised through the pod we found ourselves in a race. Competing Dolphin nose to boat bow. That’s when everyone with a camera got busy. It was a pleasure to watch them swim close to the bow of the catamaran. All this playful fun continued till we moved beyond the boundaries of the pod. We continued speeding till we were nearly parallel with Rancho Palos Verdes to the east and Catalina to the west.
The water was nearly 2,000 feet deep. It was reported we were above a canyon where the Krill were in abundance. Soon to the starboard there was a huge Fin Whale surfacing. I saw the fin first. Then on the next round od surfacing, the whale was cruising at 5 or 6 knots, came the blow with its vaporous cloud, much like wet steam rising about 15 feet from the surface of the ocean. Then came the fin once again giving me the feeling of something rolling, pressing forward like a juggernaut. It gave me a sense of something moving, that felt like it should be static, it’s where your brain attempts to compensate for movement, that isn’t really happening, messing with your equilibrium. Much like a mythical leviathan to continued it relentless pace till we saw it arch its back for the deep feeding dive. We were all told it would be 8 to 12 minutes before the whale would surface again and it could emerge in a complete location. The whale had other plans because we never saw it surface again.
The whales disappearance led to an impromptu discussion of Balaenoptera physalus by senior marine mammal biologist, Aquarium of the Pacific’s Michele Sousa, who educated us how the baleen was used in whale feeding. Baleen was once used in such things as buggy whips and crinoline during the Victorian period. The whale uses the baleen by forcing a huge volume of water with Krill into it mouth. Once it’s mouth is full it then forces out the water while the baleen traps the Krill in its mouth to be digested. The Krill are temperature sensitive, loving cold water. It so happened that the temperature was right for the Krill to migrate close to shore. The situation was perfect for whale spotting because their food had migrated close to land. Whale’s deep sea feeding requires more energy for them to feed compared to diving in shallower waters. At this point Michele brought out sample of Krill and baleen to go into more detail about whale feeding habits. The kids and photographers drew close to touch, examine and photograph the samples.
From there we moved on to another location farther south to encounter a super pod of Dolphins, before eventually landing in a busy sea-lane to spot our next whale. The super pod of Dolphin we passed through must have been a mile in diameter and in excess of 5,000 Dolphins to this pod. You could see Dolphins popping up everywhere and all sides. It was stunning to witness such numbers. It’s considered very rare too. Then we settled on the surprisingly quiet ocean preparing to catch another glimpse of this giant.
While the scale of the ocean itself makes a whale seem small when I gauge it properly it’s very apparent that this mammal is immense. It is the second largest animal on the earth. It’s fin stands at 8 feet. The fin is taller than most men. The we got the call again from Captain Dan Salas to look to the starboard bow as it slowly moved to the port bow. I finally saw more of the whale as it steered more directly in front of the bow. That’s when I gathered its true size. What I saw come out the water was bigger than a large car, not considering what was below the water line. The blow spread in a V like pattern from it blow-hole with a powerful thrust of mist from both holes. I got the feeling of something that couldn’t be easily stopped or moved about and yet it was so graceful. After 20 minutes of intense watching and aggressive photo taking its hump raised high off the surface of the water, an indication of a deep feeding dive, to disappear for the final time on morning this adventure.
As the day closed in on noon as we scooted quickly across the ocean back to port. We’d occasionally cruise a sea-lion or sea elephant snoozing with it head poking out of the water. I had no idea that seals slept with their heads sticking out above the water. I knew that Dolphins had evolved to have one hemisphere of their brain to be asleep at all times. It was funny to see their heads bobbing above the swells of the ocean’s movements in the midst of their torpor. I and the others entered port soon enough and disembarked back to The Aquarium of the Pacific.
At this point I thought I’d spend a little time at the aquarium to take it exhibits of sea life and get acquainted exhibitions. For a family outing The Aquarium of the Pacific Whale Spotting Cruise can be an educational, fun and life affirming experience. The exhibitions at The Aquarium of the Pacific can provide interesting details of ocean life from an under the water perspective. Kids are going to love the seals and the sea otters with their activities and energetic playing. Seeing crustacean, unusual crabs, aquatic birds and eels can broaden a child’s horizon and understanding of the world at large. There are audio soundtracks in each exhibit to provide instruction and insight to these underwater worlds.
It’s worth a leisurely saunter through the various rooms of curiosities. I enjoyed reuniting this experience with my faint childhood memories of my parents exposing me to this fascinating mystery filled world we too often ignore. I pondered these mighty being’s intellect. I considered the whale’s innate musicality and how it’s impacted Pop culture. All completely fascinating! Be sure to check out the Whales: Voices in the Sea multimedia exhibit while you’re there to enlarge on your whale spotting experience. The Whale Spotting excursion are provided by The Aquarium of the Pacific and Harbor Breeze Cruises. Every Whale Spotting cruise will have an Aquarium experts on board. Cruises takes place daily at 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m throughout the week. The price of admission of the cruise includes the admission to the Aquarium as well. The Whale spotting excursions is a great way to reconnect to life and experience these remarkable intelligent creatures amidst the grandeur and splendor of the surrounding secretive ocean.