Whale Watching


I recently took a trip out on the California coast exclusively to go whale watching.  I don’t take this opportunity very often, at least not for the express purpose of whale watching, because I spend so much time on the water for scuba diving.  Often times, whales will appear while we are crossing the channel to dive at Catalina, and sometimes they will appear just off the coast when we are diving at the beach.  But this day, was dedicated to finding and photographing the whales that migrate past our coast annually.

We first came upon a small pod of fin whales.  This is not a common whale in California, but there are a few.  They are characterized by a tall dorsal fin.  Fin whales can get up to 90 feet long and are the second largest mammal, next to the blue whale.  They are enormous and yet their slender torpedo-like bodies glide gracefully through the water.

A Fin Whale comes up for air.

A Fin Whale comes up for air.

Since Fin Whales can hold their breath for a long time, we soon moved on, looking for other interesting sea creatures.  We soon came upon a pod of three Gray Whales, aka Knuckle-back Whales.  They are characterized by a bumpy back that looks like knuckles.  Gray whales are much smaller than Fin whales, getting to about 50 feet long.  They have gray and white mottling on their skin from scars or parasites that have dropped off.  They lack a dorsal fin and have flukes that measure around 9-10 feet across.

Flukes of a gray whale

Flukes of a gray whale

Here you can see the ridges on the whales back as it prepares to dive.

Here you can see the ridges on the whales back as it prepares to dive.

Last highlight of the day was a large playful pod of dolphins.  These I get to see regularly as they love to swim along the bow of a boat.  This particular boat had a viewing pod.  Although the photograph is a little unclear, it was fun to see these dolphins racing along under the boat.

Dolphins swimming along the bow of a boat

Dolphins swimming along the bow of a boat

In this image, a dolphin comes up for air while it’s companion is just under the surface.

A dolphin surfaces momentarily.

A dolphin surfaces momentarily.

A big thank you to Captain Dave’s Whale Watching Safari  for a fun day out on top of the water.  If you are ever in Dana Point, California, I would highly recommend their operation.  You can click on their name for a link to their website.

 

All images are copyrighted by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please contact me.

 

 

Love Affair, A Nudiphile Episode


I am having a love affair with this tiny little Sacoglassan sea slug called Placida cremoniana.  I know, it all sounds like scientific jibberish, so putting all the big words aside, I’ll just call it PC.

In the past few weeks, I have made several trips out to Catalina Island to search for the tiny beast.  It was necessary to collect some specimen so that their DNA could be analyzed, as they have never been found in California.  This will tell us whether PC came from the bilge of a passing ship, or if it has spread slowly from the south, or if it is an entirely new critter altogether. Interestingly enough, the slug seems to be plentiful in numbers.  I found them as small as 1mm and as large as about 6mm in length.

Placida cremoniana

Placida cremoniana

The unusually warm waters along the Pacific coast for the past year or more have encouraged many warm water life forms to journey north.  Most of the sightings have been of very large creatures such as a Whale Shark, Sperm Whales, Hammerhead sharks, and a plethora of fish such as yellowfin Tuna, Mahi Mahi, and even Ono.  I was lamenting the fact that I haven’t seen any of these southern visitors yet, when I found this very tiny sea slug.  I guess I should have set my sights smaller in the first place!

Placida cremoniana.  As it turned around, it reared up and showed it's underside.

Placida cremoniana. As it turned around, it reared up and showed it’s underside.

If it is just a warm water visitor, then it may be a temporary condition.  Kinda sad, when you think about it.  If it cannot survive in California’s usually temperate water, then an entire population may disappear from our waters.  When you consider that I have been able to find them on every dive I have been on since I first found one, that becomes a very large population.   I hope to be able to report soon where this critter has come from.  If it truly is Placida cremoniana, then it is thought to have originated in the Mediterranean and spread to the western Pacific from Japan all the way to Australia.  Several years ago, one was found in Baja, so the possibility of it coming up from the south is an interesting one.  Stay tuned….

Just for the sake of size context:  the bottom right corner is the texture of the skin on my finger.

Just for the sake of size context: the bottom right corner is the texture of the skin on my finger.

All images are copyrighted by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please use the contact form below.