Thursday, February 21, 2008

San Diego Whale Watching, 2-6-08. Arr!!!

Wednesday, Feb 6th. I went on a whale-watching excursion in San Diego. I'd been on one once before a couple of years ago. Some friends from work and I took a day trip out there. The outfit is called Hornblower. Just google Hornblower Cruises. I was really excited to go on that first trip because I'd never been on a boat in the open sea before. So I was quite psyched. BTW, the above photo is of downtown San Diego as we were leaving port. The USS Midway can be seen on the right.

On that first trip we'd been out for a couple of hours without seeing anything when the captain announced that the sailboat which was a couple miles off our bow as the "spotter" had seen numerous blowhole puffs. So, we headed in that direction and, in a rather Hollywood gesture, the captain began playing "Flight of the Valkyries" over the speakers. Hollywood-ish but effective. I felt all of a sudden like some old sea-dog, scanning the horizon with piercing eyes. Eyes which I once heard described in a book whose title I can't recall as "impregnated with distance."

Once we arrived at the general area where the puffs were, we began seeing the grey whales surfacing quite near the vessel. There was nothing dramatic like one breaching the surface or a tail flip, but it was awesome nevetheless to have them so near. One whale's back quietly arced above the surface not thirty feet off our port side. What a day. A funny post-script occurred as we were heading back into the harbor. Karen, one of my co-workers was sitting by herself on the upper deck, enjoying the view. "Where's Don (her husband)," I asked? "Oh, he's down below being sick. And he's a Navy man."

Anyway, I went again two weeks ago - hoping to have more sightings, and hoping to capture some images on my digital camera, which I didn't have last time.

Alas, we only had one sighting, and that was after nearly three hours out. On the previous outing we got out to sea and then turned north, sailing parallel to the coast, I'd say between 5-10 miles from shore. Don't hold me to that. I am not used to judging distances at sea. Anyway, this time we began heading straight out to sea once we cleared the bay. Quite a feeling, heading out to the open sea.

I had no trouble with sea-sickness the previous trip, and I had none this time either. It was put to a stricter test this time, though. You see, once on board I realized I had not yet had any breakfast. So, I went into the little snack bar to see what they had. I selected a salami sandwich, which sounded good right then for some reason, and a snack box which contained a selection of cheeses, some crackers, and grapes. I also chose gatorade to drink. So, I made my way to the upper deck and sat on the starboard side, nearly to the bow. And, as the front of the boat rose and fell, I munched my salami sandwich and ate my cheese, crackers, and grapes - just as if I'd been on the couch at home, watching tv and eating.

Anyway, despite the single sighting, I did get a couple of pretty neat shots. One was of a tail flip. My timing was off, but still it turned out to be a pretty good tail shot. Here are some more of the photos:

This recreation of the famous LIFE magazine photo can be found just south of the USS Midway. I have rarely found anything as creepy as I did this. You can get the scale from the trees and from the little fellow on the left. I was afraid that once they were done smooching they were gonna start rampaging around.

The following are the four clearest shots of the whale. I was actually pretty pleased with the tail shot, all things considered. I might've gotten a better angle from a lower deck, but I think they came out allright.

It was a fun and invigorating trip which I will likely be repeating in a month or so. I recommend it.