Monterey Bay – blog 23

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.


11 Replies to “Monterey Bay – blog 23”

  1. Wow Mark, you lucky thing! Seeing a blue whale is definitely on my bucket list! (Or an orca, for that matter). I am really enjoying your blogs from America, I look forward to each day’s installment! It sounds like a wonderful trip.

  2. ‘The log of the Sea of Cortez’ is a great read by Steinbeck. Another favorite is the ‘Wayward Bus’. I have not found anyone who compares to him other than the Egyptian – Alaa Al Aswany and his ‘Yacoubian Building’. But you won’t have time for reading!!

  3. Happy World Oceans Day! 🙂 I’m very jealous.

    Dall’s Porpoise is the fastest porpoise in the world. I’m not sure why I needed to know that, but I do…

  4. Hi Mark,
    When my dad worked at Bank Of America (San Francisco) we lived for all of 6 years in Concorde, my fondest memories of this place was the Brown Pelicans at the wharf, my mum hitting a deer in her MG, the deer leaped from a higher point of the mountain side road and landed/crashed on the roof, we HAD to by law and stop and report it to an official who had to make sure it was dead, if not dead could it survive if so rescue it if not, kill it, I also remember there used to be a Peregrine on the Golden Gate bridge (I wonder if it is still there..doubt it) also the creek behind our house had terrapins too oh and earthquake and earhquake drills at school

  5. And, of course, Sea Otters – another to add to your ‘near extinct’ list alongside the marvellous California Condors from your last trip – but Sea Otters are definately cuter, though their sex lives are a bit abusive.

    1. Roderick – and you gave me a mouse-mat with a sea otter on it after your trip. It sat on my desk in several RSPB offices until it was worn out – I didn’t really think I would ever see one myself. I know nothing about the sex life of the sea otter – I’ll have to look it up.

  6. Oh, you are making me so jealous-the things we didn’t do on our trip to California!!!

  7. hi Mark,

    I’ve really enjoyed your daily reports, and have been jealous of your experiences thus far. Your whale- watching trip, though, sounds like it will be really hard to beat. Which if you feel the need to meet the challenge….

  8. Did you see any sea otters at Monterey too ?
    I’m loving your blog it reminds me of a trip my hubby & I did from San Francisco to Carmel we did stop a Monterey but didn’t do the whale watching boat.

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