Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Last week, thanks to a friend with a boat I was lucky enough to go whale watching. We've had a rare incursion of blue whales because an unusually large supply of krill, which the whales eat, is attracting them to the area. I met him through Shannon when we both worked a photobooth for the Concern Foundation benefit at Paramount Studios, which he was running. He was fun and gregarious, like a lot of the guys who work in the photo industry.

I'd learned about the rare abundance of whales, and even rarer, how close to shore they were while watching the news. I immediately wanted to go see them. It's something that I've never done. Well, as luck would have it, Brian posted photos of his venture out to see the whales and they were spectacular. He was also lucky enough to have a pod of dolphins ride his wake and got great pictures of them leaping into the air behind his boat.

Brian, Josh, Shannon and I went on a gray, cool Tuesday. We went slow through the Marina and past rock piers loaded with sea lions as pelicans, seagulls and cranes flew low overhead. Once we were out of Marina Del Rey Harbor and out into open sea, Brian went with throttle up and we raced across the ocean, bouncing over the waves, which answered our intrusion with a wall of sea spray. It was a very calm day on the ocean, calmer than Brian had ever seen, and what he said was perfect for whale watching. Still, we were on the Pacific, where calm means the waves were thick rolling swells that sent us airborne when we hit them on an up slope. Exhilarating.

Me Driving a Friend's Boat

Brian let me take the wheel and I drove the boat in open sea, bouncing across the waves, one which had Shannon catching air when he let go for a second to take a picture. We passed buoys that marked a path for freighter ships, all crowded with seals and sea lions taking a rest and unintentionally looking comical. They reminded me of a certain cat I know...

What a lush!

Brian took back at the helm and steered toward a cluster of four or five boats on the horizon. He said that where there's a gathering of boats, there are usually whales. And sure enough, as we got closer, we saw our first misty plume spew several feet high from the water. Everyone went nuts in excitement. We were going to see actual whales in the wild. And, rare blue whales at that. As we got closer, Brian slowed us down and edged toward where we had seen the plume. There were four or five boats around us, including a whale tour ship full of eager viewers who were standing on one side, cameras ready.

And that's when we saw one crest, its smooth blue gray skin emerging, spewing a misty plume before it submerged. It was just incredible to see in the wild! We could tell from its size that it was a younger whale, and it came up for several breaths before going on a deep dive. Soon, we spotted another plume and along with the other boats, got as close as we could while keeping a respectful distance. This is when a giant crested, and I heard its spout release and take a deep breath of air. Again, incredible. Shannon snapped this photo. We were only three miles off shore off Redondo Beach.

Whale Cresting off Redondo Beach

It crested about five times, as we, the tour boat another motor boat and two sailboats hovered around. In the span of an hour, we saw about five or six whales, and yes I'll say it, they were majestic. Here are two pictures I took. One shows the whale tour boat, and you can see the people standing to get a look. Click on them for a larger version:

Whale crestingBlue Whale cresting

It was a wonderful, fantastic time and something that I've wanted to do my whole life. Brian was a superb captain and great at steering the boat toward them without getting too close. Not to mention, a great host with an awesome boat!

The temperature outside @ 2pm todayIn other news, I made Flickr's blog with this photo of my dashboard reflecting the heat outside, and this wasn't even the hottest it got. I snapped the photo with my phone when I noticed the temperature, and Flickr decided to show it to the world. It's my second pleasant surprise from Flickr in the last month. So, thanks for the props Flickr.