I went on my first whale watch at the age of 6. My family and I lived just north of the city of Boston, and on my 6th birthday, we went on a whale watch out of Gloucester, Massachusetts. My memories of the day are vague, but I know we saw 6 humpback whales, and from that moment on, I was hooked.
Birthday and Christmas gifts were usually books about whales, and I spent a lot of time pouring over the marine mammal collection at my local library too. There was a list of whales I wanted to see, and the largest mammal to ever exist, the Blue Whale, was at the top. They are a rare sight in the North Atlantic, though, and I was content with watching humpbacks every year. How could you not be? Their curiosity, playfulness, and aerial acrobatics are second to none.
Fast forward to 2020. I’ve lived in San Diego, California for 4.5 years, and finally decided I needed to get back out on the water. I booked an 8-hour trip on my birthday, July 24, exactly 30 years to the day of my first whale watch. Blue whale season here was off to a sporadic start, but was starting to pick up, and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my birthday than to go looking for them! The first two hours were spent circling a large swath of the coast, doing loops between Mission Bay and just south, and La Jolla. Going south to the Coronado Islands was discussed, but unfortunately the US Navy was blocking that path. One more loop to La Jolla, and suddenly, there it was: a towering spout, a whale! And boy was this whale MOVING! Swimming at about 17 mph, the whale porpoised, flung its flukes, lunging through the waves and finally coming over the La Jolla Canyon, where it began to dive for food. We had our confirmation, too, a blue whale!
Over the next 6 hours we observed this whale feeding, showing its beautiful flukes on nearly all of its dives. We were incredibly close to shore, about 1.5 miles, with a stunning backdrop of La Jolla, the famous Torrey Pines Golf Course, and Del Mar. I was in awe of this massive creature, never realizing that their skin is mottled in unique patterns.
Seeing that bright blue, nearly neon glow as the whale came towards the surface was incredible. The sound and power of just the exhalation was amazing too. It was an incredible experience and one I will not forget!