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Through a chance reading of an article buried in the LA Times I learned that blue whales had been spotted in the Santa Barbara channel. This led to a spur-of-the-moment whale watching trip.
By the estimate of the boat captain we saw tens of thousands of marine birds, thousands of common dolphins, a few Risso’s and Bottlenosed dolphins, and, highlight of the day, two blue whales. The dolphins, as dolphins will, played with the boat on the way out to the whales. Look closely at the picture and you can see a mother and baby dolphin swimming just ahead of the boat in the bow wave. This is said to be one of the favorite actions for the common dolphin; apparently they enjoy turning on the side and looking up at the people in the boat.
|Even with a "Common" name, Delphinus delfis are a highlight of the whale watch trip. Their playful behavior and graceful antics create what Melville called "hilarious shoals, which upon the sea keep tossing themselves to heaven like caps in a Fourth-of-July crowd".||
||When we got out to the area where the blue whales were feeding, we found them feeding deep. The higher water temperatures had driven the krill down deep so the whales would surface for a couple of minutes, take several deep breaths and then sound for 10 minutes or so. A Blue whale may eat up to 1000 pounds (500 kgs.) of krill per day. They did not seem to mind our presence and when they surfaced some times we could get within fairly close viewing range. On one dive one of the whales flipped its tail into the air (see the picture at the left); something blues rarely do we were told.|
Despite Jurassic Park, it would appear blue whales are the largest animals to have ever lived on earth. In the waters of the southern oceans they grow to lengths well over 30m. (100 ft). In the North Pacific males average 25 m. (82 ft.) and females 26m. (85 ft.). Average weight ranges from 80 to 130 metric tons. In a large whale, the main artery from the heart, the aorta, can be three feet wide; a small child could walk upright inside.
||As they breath they send up a spout of air and water vapor up to 7 m (20 ft.) high. The air comes out of their blowholes with such force that it can be seen and heard at least a mile away.|
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Copyright © 2002 Tom Simondi, All Rights Reserved