Today, July 5, 2010, both our vessels from Monterey Bay Whale Watch headed
out on our regular 9:00 am trip with just over 100 people on holiday to
look for whales. We've had some great sightings over the last week of
humpback whales and hundreds of dolphins so we expected something similar.
Instead we were just amazed at the incredible number of blue whales and
humpback whales we encountered today near the edge of the Monterey Submarine
Canyon. We encountered 28 blue whales and 40 humpback whales and we estimate
over 200 whales at a minimum in the area!
Our vessels and crew, the Pt. Sur Clipper with Captain Richard Ternullo
and marine naturalist Kate Spencer and the Sea Wolf with myself (Nancy
Black) as captain and marine biologist along with marine naturalist Lori
Beraha; first encountered three Minke whales just past the Aquarium. The
whales were in shallow water feeding on small fish or krill. Minke whales
are infrequently seen here and we had incredible looks as they surfaced
in flat calm waters in the Bay. The day was begun in an unusual way with
the smallest baleen whale and ended with extraordinary sightings of the
largest baleen whale.
was the first to spot two blue whales then continued on with reports of
6 more blues in the area. We then arrived to these first blue whales and
watched them for over 30 minutes as they circled in the area feeding on
krill. While Richard watched more blue whales we continued on and found
several groups of humpback whales. As both our boats travelled slowly
down the canyon edge spread apart by over 2 miles, we both continued to
sight more whales throughout. In fact, there was no period of time where
we didn't have whales in view while we were over the canyon. The numbers
of whales and their concentration was exceptional. For example, just within
a half-mile in one area we observed 16 humpback whales and 10 blue whales!
After we spent time with the first blue whales and started travelling
along the canyon it soon became clear that things had drastically changed
over the previous night as we spotted whale blows as far as we could see.
We also had reports from other boats in the northern part of the canyon
and also to the south near Pt Sur with word of large numbers of whales
throughout. Based on that we feel confident that there were likely over
200 whales of both types at a bare minimum in the area today. I recorded
28 blue whales and 40 humpback whales that we observed closely today on
our trip alone and I feel that we saw just a small proportion of the total
as there were so many blows in the distance that we never got to, as well
as reports from other boats covering over 20 miles along the coast.
So what's really incredible is how all these whales showed up overnight.
We do know that blue whales have long-range communication as their low
frequency calls can travel hundreds of miles through the oceans. So it
seems likely that the whales communicated to others about the food source
here or other whales could hear feeding sounds or calls from the whales
already here. Some whales could have gathered from more than 50 miles
away since yesterday to concentrate in Monterey Bay to consume the krill
that was abundant throughout the area. On our depth sounder we could see
the krill below our boat and it was most dense from 200' to the bottom
and near the canyon drop-off at around 450'; so that's over 200' thick
of krill for miles which could be hundreds of tons of krill. The abundance
and concentration of krill was just remarkable, proving that indeed the
central California coast and Monterey's Submarine Canyon is a major upwelling
zone that supports a tremendous number and variety of marine life from
the smallest microplankton to the largest animal to ever live on earth,
the blue whale!
been seven years since we have had good numbers of blue whales feeding
in Monterey Bay, and over the last few years blue whale sightings have
been few. We were concerned that things had drastically changed off our
coast, possibly due to the warming oceans or cyclic changes causing the
blue whales to disperse and feed elsewhere. We wondered if that was the
new pattern or part of a new cycle; and we missed the blue whales that
had always been so predictable in years past. I first began my work in
Monterey Bay in 1986, the year the blue whales first showed up in large
numbers along our coast, so I always had a special interest in them and
even witnessed a stranded blue whale that year and helped with the necropsy
when I was in graduate school at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories.
don't know how long the blue whales and humpback whales will stay as it
depends on the krill which is affected by ocean conditions; currents,
temperatures, upwelling conditions and other variables. A blue whale can
eat four tons of krill a day or 40 million individual krill; multiply
that by 200 whales and that is a massive amount of krill.
What struck me today was the contrast between the exceptionally abundant,
healthy and thriving whales in a relatively clean ocean off our coast
compared to the disaster in the Gulf where I just feel so sad about the
birds and dolphins drenched in oil as they suffer and die in horrible
conditions with no clear end in sight. We truly appreciated what we saw
today, a bit of nature that gave everyone a good positive feeling and
hopefully instilled something about the oceans in our passengers who witnessed
this spectacular natural event today in the waters of Monterey Bay.
For people who have always wanted to see blue whales, this may be your
year! Check our sightings for daily updates,
as we will continue to monitor these whales and post our sightings.
Videos, Interviews and Articles
whale sightings on rise in Monterey Bay - KGO Channel 7 News article
Of 28 Blue Whales 'Once In Decade Event' - KSBW article and video
Blue Whales in the Monterey Bay - KION article and video
whales visit Monterey Bay in search for food - Monterey County Herald
whales, drawn by multitude of krill, emerge for a feeding frenzy -
Santa Cruz Sentinel article