Photo from one of Captain Dave's Dolphin and Whale Safari Boat Tours
In the past week, copious amounts of planktonic krill have drawn large groups of blue whales off the coast of Long Beach in Southern California. As many as 25 whales have been spotted from the shore. Dan Salas, captain of Harbor Breeze Cruises' 65-foot vessel, told reporters that recently as many as 100 blue whales have been spotted swimming in the waters between Huntington Beach and Santa Monica. In the 1960s, blue whales had been hunted almost to the point of extinction. Today, approximately 2,000 blue whales are believed to live in the North Pacific Ocean, so seeing 100 or even 25 is a rare occurrence. Marine mammal enthusiasts have been boarding Harbor Breeze Cruise and other charter boats departing from Southern California to see the record number of whales playing in the waves and spouting white geysers. The Harbor Breeze Cruise Boats collaborated with the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach to offer a new whale-listening device onboard, becoming one of the few places where the public can listen to the cetaceans they see. A female blue whale in Hawaii can hear the song of a male calling from California, now visitors on the expeditions can also listen in on this mating call. Visitors can also purchase a combination ticket allowing them to whale watch and visit the Aquarium's Whales: Voices in the Sea exhibit. "We hope to connect the public to whales like never before and to inspire them to help protect our ocean," said Michele Sousa, Aquarium of the Pacific senior mammal expert.
The blue whale is the largest animal on the planet averaging 80 feet and between 150,000 and 300,000 pounds. Blue whales need about1.5 million calories a day and can take in as much as 15,000 gallons of food and water in a single mouthful. Once whales find an abundant feeding ground, they can emit low-frequency sound waves that allow them to communicate over hundreds of miles with other whales. That could explain why so many whales have come to join in the feast.
Researchers surmise that in addition to current optimal feeding conditions off Long Beach, it is possible that as the population of blue whales grows, the whales are re-colonizing historic haunts. Some of the historic haunts have also become shipping lanes. Occasionally, dead whales are found in Santa Barbara Channel and Long Beach channels that were victims of ship collisions.
Aquarium staff are documenting the dorsal fins and fluke markings of each whale and cataloging them to determine which whales are present. The information could prove useful towards understanding their migration habits. Little is known about where blue whales travel and why.
The public can visit the Aquarium and embark on the 3.5 hour whale watch excursion with experts daily at 3:00 p.m. Excursions take place on board a catamaran docked next to the Aquarium. The Blue Whale combo ticket is available for purchase on-site at the Aquarium of the Pacific.
More on Whales
Pitch of Blue Whale Songs Is Declining Around the World, But This Could be a Good Thing
Incredible Images of Pilot Whales in the Strait of Gibraltar
Photographer Gets Within Inches of Whales