Grays On the Move: Whale Watching in San Diego

As a boy, one of my favorite childhood books was without a doubt, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. For those not familiar with the story, it tells of the obsessive quest of one Captain Ahab to kill a white whale in revenge for an attack that left him with a severed leg. The story is told by the character Ishamel who accompanies Ahab and provides the reader with a front row seat on the doomed saga of Ahab and his crew. After reading the book, I set myself the task of learning more about whales and how we can do more to protect the lives of these magnificent ‘leviathans of the deep’. My parents bought me Jacques Cousteau’s Whales one Christmas. From that moment on, my heart and mind were transfixed. This year I was privileged to see Gray whales for the first time, following their migratory path down the west coast of the United States. Together with a handful of other excited tourists, I went on a 3 hour cruise outside of San Diego bay, organized by the Scripps Institute Birch Aquarium. Below are several of the many pictures I took on that memorable day.

All Aboard Skipper!

All Aboard Skipper!

The San Diego skyline as we pulled away.

The San Diego skyline as we pulled away.

Whale watching requires patience and an understanding of the need to maintain a reasonable distance from mothers and their newborn calves as they learn to swim through treacherous waters. The last thing we wanted to do was stress them out on their long migratory journey to Baja California. For that reason alone, we only saw Grays from a distance. Nevertheless we glimpsed them as they came up for air between their sounding dives during which they would disappear for about 5 minutes.

Great day for a Grey sighting.

Great day for a Gray sighting.

Whales spouting water are a sight to behold as are the lifting of their flukes (tails) just before they plunge into the deep……….

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First Sighting

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Through the blow hole

Through the blow hole

What whales eat

What whales eat

The bristly baleen filter feeding system.

The bristly baleen filter feeding system.

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Robert Deyes

Robert has been a Technical Services Scientist at Promega for over 10 years. He also worked for two years as a Technical Advisor at the Paisley, Scotland facility of Life Technologies Inc. After earning his Masters in Medical Genetics from the University of Glasgow, he spent 18 months at the Université Louis Pasteur in Strasbourg, France where he did research into the molecular basis of the inherited disorder Spinal Muscular Atrophy. He also holds a BSc from the University of Portsmouth in England.

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