Sometimes, you're just in the right time at the right place, when all the stars align and something really magical happens. That was the experience for a select few folks out on Monterey Bay this week when conditions sparked an enormous bloom of krill and the ocean equivalent of the Serengeti migration, with blue and humpback whales substituting for zebra and wildebeest!
Local whale expert, Nancy Black, best known for her 25-year study of orcas in the bay, found herself and her boat in the middle of it; she estimated over 100 animals in total with maybe close to 30 of those being the endangered blue whale.
The biggest animal to ever roam our planet, the blue whale is a frequent flyer to Monterey Bay. (Although it has not been seen too regularly in recent years, as krill has been found less abundantly inside the bay.) The last regular sightings were in 2003; not only were they in the bay, they actually were visible from the deck of the Aquarium!
So far this year you definitely need to be offshore to see them; not so for the minke whale who entertained our visitors off our back decks for over two hours one day this week. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the minke is the smallest of the baleen whales - the filter-feeding variety. Generally less showy than the peoples' favorite - the humpback - nevertheless, it's a thrill for people to see without leaving the shore!
Another whale to surface this week can also be seen from dry land: the skull of an ancient sperm whale ancestor. While the modern sperm whale does battle in the deep with giant squid, its predecessor's row of 14-inch-long, sharp teeth suggest that it feasted on the flesh of other whales, perhaps like a 60-foot-long version of our modern-day killer whales. That's probably one whale watch trip I would not have taken!
Update: the whales are still in town in big numbers! Including one very friendly humpback who is watching the people watch the whales! Check out this video from 7/7.