Blue whales are the largest creatures ever to inhabit the earth, so when the Christopher from Harbor Breeze Cruises in Long Beach had her first blue whale sighting of the year this week, there was a ripple of excitement created.
“We had people on the boat who had never seen a whale; when they saw it was a blue, they were really excited,” said Christopher skipper Chris Batts.
The Christopher had headed south in search of gray whales when they saw a blue whale 2 ½ miles off Crystal Cove in Orange County. “We have the range and speed to go where the whales take us,” said Batts.
Deckhand Roger Ayala said that calls were being made to the Aquarium of the Pacific to alert them of this sighting as calls were coming in from the Point Vincente Interpretive Center asking for confirmation of the sighting.
At 1:30 pm Tuesday, Batts came upon another blue whale about 10 miles from Long Beach near the Huntington Beach oil rigs. "It looks like it is searching the area for food," said Batts. This blue whale sighting is further evidence that whale watching enthusiasts may be in for an early blue whale season.
Blue whales can reach lengths of 100 feet and can weigh over 100 tons. Their tongues can weigh as much as an elephant while their hearts are the size of a Volkswagen bug. They attain these mammoth dimensions on a diet composed nearly exclusively on shrimplike animals called krill. These baleen whales feed by gulping vast amounts of water and then forcing that water with their tongues through baleen plates. Thousands of krill are left behind and then swallowed by the hungry blue whale. A single blue whale can consume as much as 4 tons of krill a day.
Batts said the might leviathan surfaced six times before arching it back for another deep dive. “It put on a pretty good show for everyone on board,” said Batts. “We can only hope this is an early start to another incredible blue whale season.”
An abundance of krill off San Pedro last year attracted dozens of blue whales for what was the most memorable blue whale season in recent history for the Los Angeles area.
Captain Frank Savino of the Enterprise out of Long Beach Marina Sportfishing was returning from a fishing trip to Catalina Island last July when he came across dozens of blue whales off San Pedro feeding on krill. “In the 40 years that I have been doing this, I have never, ever seen a more impressive blue whale show in my life.”
Whale watching enthusiasts are hoping for another banner year. That will depend in large part on the availability of krill off the Southern California coast. For now, besides northbound gray whales, and an occasional humpback and orca sighting, it appears that blue whales have joined the leviathan party.