Whale of a weekend!

Pardon the pun, but we plan to go on a whale watching cruise in Monterey Bay this weekend.  It is a four hour jaunt, leaving from coastal Santa Cruz, into Monterey Bay.  This is a very deep body of water, often called a sub-marine canyon that is larger than the Grand Canyon, and is a favorite dining area of several types of whales.  This ‘canyon’ begins less than half a mile from shore, and extends over two miles.  Off shore currents, called ‘upwellings’, stir up all sorts of aquatic edibles, much to the delight of many sea creatures.  This is the basis for the ocean’s food chain.  Over 27 mammals take advantage of this aquatic cafeteria, including birds and fish.

The most common whale to pass through is also the biggest:  the Grey Whale averages over fifty feet in length.  This big boy, or girl,  is the largest creature that has ever lived, bigger even than those fierce monsters the dinosaurs!  But just because they are the biggest of the whales, it doesn’t mean that they can swim carefree.  Another type of whale that can be spotted on this waterway is the Killer Whale.  This aptly named creature likes to snack of young Grey’s, as well as dolphins, walrus and sea lions.  Hopefully, they will behave themselves while we are there with our binoculars, innocently viewing all these amazing animals.

Twice every year over 20,000 Gray Whales pass through the waters off of Santa Cruz, when they are migrating south from the cold arctic waters of the Bering Sea to their winter calving grounds off of the Baja Peninsula. Then, they head north again to their summer feeding grounds in the Bering Sea of Alaska. . This 10,000+ mile roundtrip is one of the longest migrations of any animal known.  Females are usually larger than males. During their migration they are constantly traveling at 2-4 miles per hour. This can make for ideal viewing. Gray Whales will sound (dive) for 2-5 minutes, sometimes longer. Their northern migration tends to be more social and leisurely. At times they can be spotted mating, breaching and “spyhopping”.

Humpback whales are the most sociable.  They can sometimes be seen surfacing within a reasonable proximity of the boats, as though curious.  Perhaps this is why they are often seen in captivity as well, at places like SeaWorld.  They are just as curious about us as we are about them!
We will have to plan ahead, and leave home bright and early, since Santa Cruz is about  two hours from here.  As always, traffic heading to the coast can be very heavy, so a timely departure should help with that as well.  Buying tickets ahead of time will also help.  Plus, packing some Dramamine in the lunch bag would be wise.  This little cruise IS on the ocean, which could potentially be volatile!

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