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Monday, September 26, 2011

Rogue Life List: #36. See the World’s Largest Animal

While on a Pelagic Bird tour Saturday, see here, I got to see the most amazing thing. We were lucky enough to find a Blue Whale, something that I have wanted to see for a long time and an item on my Rogue Life List. I say lucky because they are not easy to spot because the ocean is a big place and as of the last study done in 2002 there are only approximately 5,000-12,000 in the world. Five known groups of blue whale exist with only 500 in the north Atlantic population. Listed on the IUCN Red List as endangered, meaning that there is a high risk of extinction in the wild, the blue whale is something rare to see.

Whaling, outlawed in 1966, was the cause of the blue whales rapid decline. Currently it is estimated that there are only about 1% of their original population left.

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Whenever I do these trips I make sure to check which animals will be in the area as well for that season. When I saw that the blue whale typically migrates between July – September I was hopeful that we would come across one. The back broke the surface close to the boat, we saw the spout, exclamations of glee erupted and the captain positioned us closer.

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That back, it never seemed to end, it just kept coming and coming and coming. And then I had to laugh at the tiny little fin sticking up on such a large back. It seemed like a toy fin and not proportionate to the whale. I was trying to imagine just how large this guy was and when I got home did some research. I knew this was the biggest animal in the world, maybe even the biggest animal ever to have lived on the earth as scientists debate, but I didn’t quite realize how big. Seventeen times the length of me, reaching up to 110 feet, these guys are MASSIVE.

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As the 50 of us on deck watched in awe the captain, who was part of the Ocean Institute, gave us a great running commentary on blue whale behaviour. The blue whale generally comes up for three large breaths, filling its lungs and then on the third breath they dive deep resulting in a tail flute. I counted slowly, my camera positioned to get the shot of the tail.

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Ms. Sweetie, my cousin who came with me on the boat, and I were SO SUPER EXCITED. While the whale was underwater for an estimated eight minutes the boat that was silent while the whale was present buzzed with excited voices. Both Ms. Sweetie and I had never seen a blue whale and to get this close to one was incredible.

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The second time the whale surfaced I had out my video camera. I watched the blue whale surface for its two deep breaths and then on the third I waited, breath held for that last final breath and tail flute. Capturing it on video, my first ever blue whale; you can see the blowhole, the tiny fin and then the gigantic tail, all from less than 10 feet off the front of the boat. I have to say it again one of the most incredible moments ever!



P.S. The baby whale weighs about 6000 tons, the size of a grown hippopotamus, when it is born. And it drinks 100 gallons of its mother’s milk in a single day resulting in about a 2 pound weight gain PER HOUR!

P.P.S We also saw Risso’s Dolphin, Long-snouted Common Dolphin and come California sea lions.

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A GROUP OF LONG NOSED DOLPHINS HUNTING

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MY FIRST TIME EVER SEEING RISSO’S DOLPHIN’S

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A SEA LION CRUISED RIGHT PAST OUR BOAT IN THE HARBOR

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SEA LIONS CHILLING ON A BUOY

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A HORRIBLE PHOTO BUT A WHOLE GROUP OF HUMBOLT SQUID WERE HUNTING FISH RIGHT OFF THE SIDE OF THE BOAT

2 comments:

paul peggy zeus said...

Great adventures with a great cousin. I remember seeing the humpback whale in Alaska and felt the same excitement. His back seemed to go on forever and ever before that infamous tail shot straight up in the air. I've yet to see a whale breach the ocean, but I know I will some day.

lilmansworld said...

so what you're saying is that you were excited a little bit? Oh yeah i picked up on that :) Fantastic!

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