Even before Saturday’s whale watching trip left the harbor in Half Moon Bay, two California sea lions were happily splashing around near the boat and one raised a big flipper out of the water, waving as our trip began. We would experience another marine mammal ‘wave’ at the end of our excursion.
Heading south from the harbor, we quickly spotted a cow-calf pair of gray whales traveling close to shore. The mother had a very distinctive white spot on her flank, making photo identification among naturalists much easier. The whales steadily moved up the coastline and in a short time we spotted another whale between our boat and the horizon and we began observing the new whale.
During the middle portion of our trip, we observed 3 more gray whales, individually moving north along their northward migratory route. We were then called away by a report of a gray whale breaching about a mile from us.
We located the whale, but its breaching behavior had ended and we watched it move north. Not to disappoint avid fans, a gray whale dove and raised its massive fluke as a fitting finale to this exciting trip.
Bird watchers onboard also had an eventful morning, spotting:
Chris Biertuempfel manages Oceanic Society’s California-based programs, continuing the non-profit’s tradition of ocean faring expeditions that began in 1972. Also, he leads whale-centric expeditions in California and Mexico as a naturalist. His work as a photographer from such trips has been featured in several media outlets, including the San Francisco Chronicle and ABC News.