Whale Watching: Soaring into the Summer Season

Summer Whale Watching has started, and so far calm seas and warm weather have prevailed. The kickoff began July 30, as we set out from the coast of San Diego in search for this season’s more commonly seen whales, including Blue Whales.

The first weekend included several spectacular sightings of Common Dolphins, with one pod estimated to be eight hundred strong! The Common Dolphin, as its name suggests, is frequently spotted off the coast of California. Dolphins often “bow ride,” where they take advantage of pressure waves created by boats as they travel through water. “Porpoising” is a common way that dolphins swim and can be described as leaping in and out of the water. It is more efficient to spend swimming time out of the water, as there is less resistance compared to traveling through water. Through these clever methods, dolphins are able to travel with greater speed and efficiency.

Dolphins leap in and out of the water, allowing them to swim with greater efficiency.

Common Dolphins leap in and out of the water, allowing them to swim with greater efficiency.

Day one of Whale Watching included a sighting of a juvenile Humpback Whale, which snorkeled close to the side of the boat for over twenty minutes. Days two and three included three separate sightings of Minke Whales, which are the smallest of the great whales.

Our second weekend was marked with another Minke Whale sighting and three Blue Whales! Two were seen about fifty meters away, but one surfaced very close to the boat. This huge animal took a breath so close to the boat, that the exhalation could be heard and the mottled skin, when beneath the water, was seen to take on a blue hue, a characteristic that grants this famed whale its name.

Blue whales found locally around the San Diego coast can reach up to 90 feet in length. Photo by Audrey Evans.

Blue whales found locally around the San Diego coast can reach up to 90 feet in length. Photo by Audrey Evans.

Whale and wildlife tally so far this summer:

  • Blue Whales: 3
  • Minke Whales: 3
  • Humpback Whales: 1
  • Common Dolphins: nearly 1,000
  • Two unidentified sharks (possibly Blue Sharks)
  • California Sea Lions
  • Australian Jellies: dozens
  • Cormorants
  • Brown Pelicans
Sightings of Blue Whales near San Diego have risen, most likely from increased availability of food. Photo by Audrey Evans.

Sightings of Blue Whales near San Diego have risen, most likely from increased availability of food. Photo by Audrey Evans.

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Scripps Institution of Oceanography UC San Diego