Category Archives: Oceanic

Awesome Dolphins

Can I just say that I had such an awesome day that I could weep?

The trip on the Voyager out of Redondo this morning couldn’t have been more beautiful. We caught up with a super-mega-duper pod of Long-Beaked Common Dolphins about 30 minutes into the trip and stayed with them for about 30 minutes until we got word of a small pod of three whales just off Torrance Beach and followed them all the way to Pt. Vicente before we had to turn around.

I’ll have a complete wrap up of the trip on my blog (but I’ve already posted photos on flickr) later but I’ll leave you with this:

Whale Watch Weekend

The weather has shaped up to be spectacular this weekend. I’m heading out on a morning whale watch trip tomorrow out of Redondo Beach Sportfishing. We’re expecting calm seas, clear skies and great visibility. It’s a huge difference over last year’s rainy weather that kept so many boats from going out.

This week and next week mark the “turnaround time” for the Pacific Gray Whales. Some whales are still heading south to the lagoons of Baja, but others have already visited and are heading north again. Yesterday eight whales were spotted from Pt. Vicente by the census team – five southbound whales and three northbound. So they’re comin’ and goin’!

What’s even cooler is the opportunity this presents more chances to catch a view of whales. On yesterday’s trip on the Voyager they caught sight of a southbound whale and followed him for a bit and then caught up with a northbound whale which they were able to follow back towards the harbor. Word lately is that the northbound whales aren’t in as much of a hurry and there have even been reports of behaviors like lunging and breaching (jumping out of the water). Many boats are also catching sight of a variety of dolphins, Risso’s Dolphins have been spotted regularly and have even been approaching the boats (they’re rather aloof).

You can get updates of current census counts at the American Cetacean Society’s page.

The news isn’t all good for the whales that use are aquatic superhighway of the coast. Here’s an alarming story from the LA Times about the current population threats as the Bering sea has been warming up since 2000. And perhaps this is evidence of the poor conditions for the whales, as a dead yearling Gray Whale washed up in San Pedro. It’s not known if this is the same whale that was injured in a fluke (pardon the pun) incident where a Gray Whale landed on a boat off of Santa Barbara.

Ports ‘o Close Call

I went whalewatching today out of Spirit Cruises at Ports o’ Call. Captain Tim did a great job of searching for whales, and even kept the boat out an extra half hour to make sure that the group of Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts from Ontario got to see a pair.

As we headed back into the harbor we were alongside a large cargo ship (well, not the largest, this one can just squeak through the Panama Canal) to our starboard and a small sailboat regatta to our port.

As we passed the regatta and headed towards our slip the cargo ship blasted his horn five times. That’s the international sign for “I’m not altering course, get outta my way” but that didn’t seem to phase the small sailboat the was heading right into his path.
Continue reading Ports ‘o Close Call

Angel’s Gate Lighthouse you’ve ever been to Catalina, you’ve probably passed the Angel’s Gate Lighthouse. She stands at the end of the San Pedro jetty, which is actually made of rocks quarried from Catalina Island and extends 9,250 feet from the shores of San Pedro at Cabrillo Beach. It was originally put into service in 1913.

She’s not as quaint as many other lighthouse, just a squat Romanesque looking thing, made of steel with a multi-sided base and a twelve sided column where the light sits. She’s also doesn’t look to be in great shape. The steel plates on the first two levels that give her strength are now rusting and of course she’s been listing for years from strong storms that have battered her. I’ve seen her light often from the Cabrillo Beach as I park for my Tuesday night classes at the aquarium. The light was originally white, but the captains complained as Los Angeles grew that there was too much ambient light behind it to make it out, so it was changed to green. It’s the only green beacon in Southern California.

You can walk out on the jetty to the lighthouse itself, but it’s a rather perilous journey if the seas aren’t calm, as the jetty is not that high and there are many jumbles of boulders along the way. At 9,250 long, that’s 1.75 miles. Your best bet is to catch sight of it by boat – Spirit Cruises out of Ports ‘o Call runs many harbor cruises (and whalewatching cruises will take you by it as well) and the San Pedro Catalina Express passes by it, too.
Continue reading Angel’s Gate Lighthouse

How to Go Whalewatching

bla-commondolphinsolo.jpgEven if you’re not in London today to see the northern bottle-nosed whale maybe it’s made you think about going whalewatching right off the coast here.

But maybe you don’t know what to bring or what it’s like to go whalewatching.

There are many different landings to go out on and each has its own advantages. Some have boats with more amenities such as a full bar and others offer a closer vantage point to the wild shores of the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

Whichever you choose to go on, make the most of your trip.
Continue reading How to Go Whalewatching

Whale Watching Trips

If you’re looking for something different to do this weekend, this might be the time to head out into Santa Monica Bay to see the southbound Pacific Gray Whales.’m leading a trip tomorrow morning leaving from Redondo Sportfishing on the Voyager. My co-naturalists include the president of the Los Angeles chapter of the American Cetacean Society who also happens to be an avid bird watcher and can point out the amazing diversity of feathered friends on our shores. We’ve also been enjoying huge pods of Common Dolphins right off our shores.

Redondo Sport Fishing
233 N Harbor Drive, Redondo Beach, CA 90277

Even if you’re not able to make my trip (and I’m going out on Monday the 16th at 1:30 PM, too.) they have two daily boats, 10AM and 1:30 PM.

Weekends: Adults: $17.00 / Child (under 10) $12.00

Weekdays: All Fares: $13.00

Check the latest marine forecast & Daily Whale Migration Census.

UPDATE: I called the landing this morning and even though there’s a surf advisory, their trip is a go. I’ll post more later!

The High Seas

Blasting the Pier
Originally uploaded by eatingorange.

eatingorange posted this to the Pacific Ocean Flickr group that I moderate. I haven’t been out to the ocean in a few weeks (though things were calm down at Cabrillo Beach on Tuesday night). It looks wild and foamy. I know the surfers are enjoying the mild temps and high surf.

I’m heading out on Monday for my first Whalewatching tour for the year (my training trip) so I’m hoping things will calm down a bit before then, but for now, I hope the surfers are enjoying their white-cap Christmas.

The Seldom Seen Side of Catalina

Last spring I went to Catalina for the first time. I did the tourista trip, Catalina Express to Avalon for the day. Yesterday I had a completely different experience with the island, starting with the fact that I never stepped foot on it but fell in love with it from afar. I took a trip set up by the American Cetacean Society called “Around Catalina with John Olguin.”

We departed from Long Beach along with 500 other people on the Catalina Countess – a huge three story boat that gave us a smooth crossing. It was hazy and overcast but the visibility was pretty good. Shortly after rounding the Palos Verdes Peninsula we spotted two gray whales heading north. We slowed and circled, and caught sight of them once from a distance before we sped off to our destination, the far side of Catalina. During the crossing we had special guest lecturers, including John Olguin giving his amazing recreation of the sounds that whales make (memorized from a record he had), which included the buzzing lawnmower like sounds of pilot whales to the booming thumps of sperm whales to the mournful songs of humpbacks.

Continue reading The Seldom Seen Side of Catalina

Whale Watching from Long Beach – Saturday

I’m booked on another boat, this Saturday morning out of Long Beach Harbor on Long Beach Sportfishing’s whale watch boat.

I thought I’d throw it out as an open invitation to everyone who might want to head on down the 710 (or down the street if you’re one of our LB readers) to hop on a boat this weekend and see what’s out there. I’m on the Saturday @ 10 AM boat as a rookie whale watch naturalist, there’s another at 1:30 PM and the schedule repeats on Sunday. $10 for kids & seniors, $12 for adults.

We’re expecting excellent weather on Saturday with westerly winds 10 to 15 knots and westerly swell of 2 to 3 ft. They’re spotting Pacific gray whales every day from the whale census at Pt. Vicente so there’s a good chance we’ll be able to catch sight of one. Even if we don’t there’s always lots to see – sea lions, skimmers, gulls, pelicans, terns and the magnificent dolphins.

Redondo Beach Sportfishing also has boats going out at 10 AM and 1:30 PM every day.

Voyager II

Today I went out on my second whale watch tour out of Redondo Sportfishing – I’m still in training as a docent, and a little shy about taking the mic, but it was a fabulous trip in spite of my lack of narrative input!

The seas this morning were glassy smooth, with nary a cloud in the sky (okay, I’m a little sunburned).

The trip started with the promise of a whale that was spotted off Manhattan Beach and as we searched for it we came across a spirited pod of about 200 short-beaked common dolphins. They swam with the boat, as you can see from the photos below (click for larger 100k versions), the clear water made for excellent viewing of them swimming below us.

Continue reading Voyager II

Pt. Dume

One of my favorite places in Los Angeles is Point Dume. I always have a great time there. It can be overcast and drizzly or clear and crisp and I’ll always enjoy just looking at the sea.

coreopsis.jpgYesterday The Man and I went with our new binoculars in hopes of spotting some whales and of course the ubiquitous sea lions. The sea lions, however were scarce, with only a few spotted on the buoy and a rare bark. Often we catch sight of a huge masses of dolphins far offshore, but no such luck yesterday. All we saw mammal-wise were a few small pods of dolphin (probably common dolphins) as they fished off the rocks and near the beach at Zuma.

What was a real treat was how the rains have turned Los Angeles into a velvety green pasture from a distance. And up close, the hillsides on the bluffs were packed silly with giant coreopsis in bloom.
Continue reading Pt. Dume

Whale Watch, um, no Dolphin Watch!

Today was my first whale watch as a docent for the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium. As a rookie I didn’t lead the trip as I’m still in training, but I did my best to help spot the buggers out there at sea.

The weather was perfect. The only thing missing today out on the Voyager from Redondo Sportfishing were the whales. We did spot one but it was acting rather strange by swimming just below the surface and not showing his back at all when he came up to breathe. Our captain (John) was amazing, he spotted the whale from its flukeprint and navigated us into a position to see it without interfering.

But the highlight was when we caught a pod of Bottlenose Dolphins about halfway between Redondo and Catalina. About three hundred of them heading north frolicked around the boat, riding the bow wave, jumping fully out of the water and just looking like the amazing creatures that they are.

The whales are definitely out there. We spotted one off the beach at Laguna on Saturday, and at any time you can check up on the American Cetacean Society’s local census. I’m really looking forward to this season and getting to know the local birds better (I can’t tell my gulls apart). Classroom education is great, but the dolphins never look like those little drawings in the guidebooks. And of course understanding the scale of a whale is never quite as clear until your realize that they are actually bigger than a bus.