Whales Spotted off Coast

Kirt Ramirez

It’s blue whale season for Southern California.

The giant creatures can be found feeding off the Long Beach coast this time of year and Harbor Breeze Cruises, in partnership with the Aquarium of the Pacific, continues to educate the public on the endangered species.

“It was a very nice trip,” said Ben Ham, a fire chief for the Flevoland fire department in the Netherlands. “We were lucky.”

Ham, with his colleague Kees Splinter, captured images of a blue whale during an Aug. 8 excursion. The two men were in SoCal to compete in the 2017 World Police and Fire Games in Los Angeles. They took time to visit Long Beach and witness the blue whales.

Every whale-watching trip with Harbor Breeze Cruises includes an educator from the Aquarium of the Pacific to provide facts over the loud speaker.

For instance, blue whales can hold their breath for 30 minutes, though they typically don’t.

They breathe through two blowholes and can exhale a spout 20 feet high.

Blue whales are baleen whales, meaning they don’t have teeth. They can take in 17,000 gallons of water and after pushing it out, tiny shrimp-like krill remains and is the main source of food.

They eat 4,000 to 8,000 pounds of krill every day.

The cold waters off of Southern California are deep and rich in nutrients due to an upwelling of the sea waters, which kicks up the nutrients and attracts marine life.

Blue whales are the largest animals to ever exist on earth – bigger than any dinosaur.

The blue whale’s tongue is the weight of the world’s largest land animal, the African elephant.

Unlike dolphins and orcas, blue whales are so big and heavy that they cannot get themselves out of the water. Thus, they reveal parts of their bodies when coming to the surface.

They can weigh 350,000 to 400,000 pounds and can grow 88 to 100 feet long – about the length of three school buses.

Harbor Breeze’s latest high-tech catamaran, La Esplada, is 85 feet long.

Blue whales are actually greyish but get their name from the bluish, turquois color that appears underwater as the whale surfaces.

At 180 decibels, they are much louder than a jet plane but at a frequency humans cannot hear. Blue whales in Long Beach can chat with others far away.

Born weighing 8,000 pounds and 20 feet long, the babies grow at a rapid rate of nine pounds per hour, about 200 pounds per day. They consume 150 gallons of the mother’s fatty milk a day, which has the consistency of cottage cheese or yogurt.

They can live more than 90 years.

Each tail, or fluke, is distinct like a fingerprint and photos are archived to track the animals. When the whale goes down, it can display the fluke above the water. A smooth, glossy circle results on the water’s surface from the turbulence – a fluke print.

The blue whale’s esophagus is no larger than a loaf of bread, meaning it cannot swallow large animals.

Blue whales mind their business of feeding as the tour boat approaches and drifts nearby. They are gentle giants in the deep sea.

Fifty percent of the world’s oxygen comes from the ocean, making the sea an important contributor to life, the educator explained.

Captain and Harbor Breeze Cruises CEO Dan Salas said the number of blue whale sightings are down this year compared to the high amount seen last year. He said the local waters are warmer this time and more blue whales are up north near San Miguel Island.

Boat guests might see tuna jump out of the water or observe a great white shark or humpback, but blue whales are down this year, he said.

“We have more humpbacks than we’ve ever had before,” Salas told the Beachcomber by phone. “There’s still a lot of life out there but not as many blue whales as in the past.”

John Calambokidis, a research biologist with Cascadia Research, said in a statement: “Our long-term research shows the blue whale population is pretty stable but their distribution shifts year to year depending on krill abundance.”

Meanwhile, Dutch visitor Lucy De Groot visited the Aquarium of the Pacific and took the three-hour whale watching tour.

“I liked the aquarium and I really liked the boat ride,” she said.

She especially enjoyed the aquarium’s sea otter exhibit, lorikeet birds and jellyfish.

“I could spend the day watching the sea otters.  They are really fun to watch. They are so playful,” she said.

While on the boat, De Groot took seasickness precautions by wearing pressure-point wristbands, which she believes prevented her from getting sick.

The experience on the sea was amazing, she said.

Harbor Breeze’s boats dock next to the aquarium and more information about whale watching trips can be found at 2seewhales.com. More about the Aquarium of the Pacific can be learned at aquariumofpacific.org.



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