Monday, February 13, 2012

Whale Watching with Torrance and Alhambra

On Thursday, February 9, students from the Alhambra and Torrance campus joined together to go whale watching at Redondo Beach. Almost 90 students participated in the activity, which took us out into the Pacific Ocean, across from the Palos Verdes peninsula and Catalina Island. It was a great day to be out there. The weather was sunny and warm, and LSI students had almost the entire boat to themselves.

The excitement started almost as soon as we left the dock. The boat’s captain told us he could see whales just outside of the harbor. But first, we stayed in the harbor while dolphins sw
am up to and around our boat. They came right up to the sides and would pop their heads out of the water, like they wanted to play with us! They seemed so friendly and
intelligent – we really enjoyed being so close to them.

Almost as soon as we left the harbor, the captain sighted the whales. The first whales we saw were fin whales. Fin whales are the second longest whale, and can grow up to 90 feet (27 meters) long. We saw a pair of whales swimming together. First, we saw their blow, which is the water they blow into the air from the hole on top
of their heads. After that, the whales “fluked,” which means they lifted their back fin high out of the water, right before they dived deeply underwater. These whales were a little hard to see because they are fast and only stayed on the surface for a short time.

As we continued to sail on the ocean, the captain pointed out different types of sea birds and animals that were flying over or floating on the ocean’s surface. Did you know that sea lions will float on their side and stick one flipper into the air to absorb the Sun’s heat and warm their bodies when they are cold? If they get too hot, they wait until the air above the ocean is cool and stick their flipper up again, this time to cool themselves down. We saw several sea lions doing this.

Suddenly, the captain had us look into the distance off the left side of the boat – two gray whales were out there swimming. By law, commercial boats (like the one we were on) have to stay at least 300 yards (274 meters) awa
y, but it was still very easy to see their blow. Soon, one of the whales rose out of the water in an arc, and then went below again. Like the fin whales, these whales swam in pairs. The captain was excellent in predicting where and when the gray whales would come to the surface again. He circled the boat around so we could get a closer look.

After about three hours on the ocean, we headed back to the dock. Nature wasn’t done with us yet. Shortly before we entered the harbor, another gray whale made an appearance. This time, we were close enough to see the large white spots common on the whale’s body. Finally, as we entered the harbor, a small group of seals played near the entrance and allowed us to watch them. All in all, it was a fantastic trip, one I’m sure LSI students will remember for a long time!

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