And now I am in Monterey, just up the road from Carmel where Clint Eastwood was mayor, and the setting for a couple of Steinbeck novels. Hello Pacific Ocean.
Fisherman’s Wharf is a bunch of restaurants and gift shops that are keen to sell you fish food or hats and tea-shirts. But there are also whale-watching trips.
On a whale-watching trip one might hope to see whales but this isn’t the best time of year. However, there are seabirds, sea otters and sea lions also potentially on the menu.
California sea lions are abundant on Fisherman’s Wharf. There are loads of them in the water and hauled out on boats, jetties, rocks. They are big and beautiful – and noisy too.
The whale-watching trip took about three hours and around 30 of us headed out into Monterey Bay to the area where there is a deep water canyon. We saw Dall’s porpoise (never heard of it before) and some guillemots, western gulls and lots of Brandt’s cormorants. We seemed to be heading somewhere, and it seemed to be where there was another boat – and through my binoculars I could see that the boat had lots of people on it and they were all looking off the front of the boat. This seemed promising even though our boat crew hadn’t given anything away yet.
They were killer whales – about half a dozen – one of the species at the very top of my bucket list. I’ve missed killer whales in Shetland (several times) and Spain but I wasn’t missing them in California I was looking at their huge pointed dorsal fins slicing through the water. Do they look menacing because we know that these are marine carnivores or would they look like trouble heading through the water even on a plankton-eater?
We cruised behind and to the side of the killer whales for several minutes and every so often they would all surface together and we would see the white and grey patches that are so diagnostic.
I hadn’t really expected to see these (partly because my luck has so often been of the ‘You should have been here yesterday’ variety’) and it made the trip for me.
But there was more to come.
About 10 minutes further on and we came across several blue whales – first seeing them ‘blow’ and then seeing the enormous blue-grey backs come out of the water at a shallow angle and seemingly to last forever until just before they disappear you see the tiny dorsal fin (which looks a bit pointless really).
They are big – like everything in America.
We came close to driving this species to extinction – like the bison, the pronghorn, the sequoia and others – but like them we stopped just in time. With the passenger pigeon and Carolina parakeet we went a little too far and they were lost from our planet forever.
If every politician in the world saw a blue whale, or a sequoia, would they do more to save threatened species? I think they would. I hope they would.[registration_form]