Aquatic giants come down to breed, eat, show off

first_imgAfter all, this faraway spout was one of many already spotted on the trip, and sunburn, seasickness and concern about deadlines were beginning to take their toll. But then, it happened. A gigantic gray-blue shape sprang from the water. It was the length of a bus, tapered at one end, fluid and floppy. It was airborne for a few seconds, then landed with a huge splash, displacing enough water to cause a swell. It was a blue whale, which, at lengths reaching 100 feet and weights reaching 160 tons, is the biggest animal on Earth, not only now but quite possibly ever. And it had just done something, Salas assured the crowd as the boat began to accelerate toward it, that most people don’t ever get to see – it breached. And then it did it again. And again. LONG BEACH – The bright sunshine turned into haze as the Christopher pulled past Point Fermin. The water, so recently a bright blue, was now a metallic gray a few shades darker than the sky. But the sudden puff of steam several hundred yards away, out in the direction of an invisible Catalina, was unmistakable. “Thar she blows!” cried Dan Salas, captain of the Christopher and owner and operator of Harbor Breeze Cruises. The gaggle of reporters, photographers, Aquarium of the Pacific employees and tourists (one with a tiny Chihuahua tucked into her sweat shirt pocket), stirred itself to look, admittedly with far less enthusiasm it had shown just an hour earlier. By the time the Christopher had gotten close enough to get really chummy, it turned out the blue whale was not alone. It had a slightly smaller companion, and while both creatures obliged by spouting repeatedly and showing off their smooth gray-blue backs (in spite of their size, blue whales are surprisingly slim and tapered), the acrobatics were definitely over. However, each was more than happy to show off its tail as it dove deep into the water. In whale speak, this is known as “fluking.” Like their much smaller cousins, the gray whales, Northern Pacific blue whales migrate every year from Alaska to Mexico, passing Long Beach on the way. They breed and feed on their diet of choice, tiny shrimp called krill. Your average blue whale needs to eat four tons of krill a day. And just in case you’re wondering, when a blue whale is done digesting all that krill, the result is bright orange, and surprisingly small, considering the size of the creature that emitted it. “We’ve been blessed,” joked an aquarium employee as one whale spotted off Point Vicente left its souvenir in the water earlier during the trip.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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