whale watching, photo essay (or the mother’s day mega pod)

The woman cozied up next to me.  She was skeletal, wrapped in the barest amount of muscle and skin.  “So, how do you feel?”

“Um, I feel good about it,” I said.

“Me, too.  This day, it’s going to be a good day.  You ever been before?”  Her accent was thick, vaguely Russian sounding.

“Up in Santa Barbara, but not here.”

She looked at me over the rims of her designer sunglasses.  I remember her sucking on a lollipop, but I’m pretty sure that’s just my imagination filling in some gaps.  “But you live here.  This is the first time you’ve gone?  That’s crazy.”

By then we were underway, and being distracted with our very first marine life sighting of the 3h boat trip.

Blue Herron

Blue Heron ©JL Colomb

There was a long floating dock, home to a live bait shop fishermen sidle up to get squirming fish as lures.  Egrets, blue herons, and cormorants hang out here, looking for a tasty and easy bite to eat.


Air Dry ©JL Colomb

Even though these were slightly more common sights, especially for people who spend any amount of time around the bay, there was still something special about seeing these creatures through the frame of the moment.  The cormorants, graceless birds, were hanging their wings out to dry with their brothers and sisters.  Gazes watchful for an opportunity to feed.


Luxuriating ©JL Colomb

And just down the pier, sea lions lazed about.  Napping through the morning gloom, they nearly sank the end of the floating expanse of wood.  It stuns me that these creatures, who look so clumsy and awkward on land, can manage to occupy such curious spaces.

Buoy seals

Perched ©JL Colomb

As we steadily churned through the channel, we also passed by a fisherman on broken concrete jetty.  The tagged building just behind him, his clothes and the cooler are all modern affectations, disjointed and almost countering the act of fishing in which he was engaged.  Meditating on the water and what dwells within in it.

Gone fishing

Squatter ©JL Colomb

But this was a whale watching trip, and as exciting as all these sights were, along with seeing the largest kelp forest on the California coast and among the largest in the world, and seeing Point Loma and San Diego from the vantage of the ocean, I really wanted to see a whale.

This panic of birds, mostly cormorants, pointed to a flurry of activity under the water.  Dolphins hunted close by, stirred fish up close to the surface until they were trapped with their two likely escapes being the toothed mouth of a dolphin or the sharp beak of a sea bird.


Frenzy ©JL Colomb

The first pod we encountered had roughly 500 individuals in it.

Frolicking Dolphins

Frolicking ©JL Colomb

The next one we encountered extended in every direction, as far as we could see.  The naturalist estimated approximately 1500 dolphins were in the water all around us.  My mom delighted in watching them play and eat and be.

Hover craft

Hover Craft ©JL Colomb

While we only caught the barest glimpse of a Finn whale off in the distance, getting to spend so much time with so many dolphins more than made up for it.  They are spectacular non primates.  Their athleticism and playfulness is inspiring, as is there intelligence. It was a good day.


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