I’ve lived in the LA area for more than 20 years now (gulp!), and this is the first time I’ve ever actually gone out on a whale-watching cruise. The impetus for this trip was a visit from my Tennessee-based sister, who wanted to go out on the water. Since it’s November, and actually going out to the beach would involve parkas & scarves rather than bikinis, I figured this would be a nice compromise.

It turns out that it was a very unusual experience – we saw two species of cetaceans that are quite rare – especially as close to shore as we found them.

First, there were the Risso’s Dolphins – big honkin’ beasts. Seriously. I’ve swum with the familiar bottlenose dolphins, and been intimidated by the sheer strength of a 500-lb critter that is made out of pure muscle & gristle. Touching a dolphin while you’re swimming is a lot like putting your hand on the hood of an idling 18-wheeler.

Risso Dolphins

A pod of Risso's Dolphins - these guys look like mini-whales. They're white and gray, rather than the familiar battleship gray of their bottlenose kin, and much thicker around.

You just get this deep, thrumming sense of power.

Next, just as we were about to go in (and about time, too, as most of the passengers were starting to turn a little blue), we heard the long, extended “PFFFFFFttttttt!” of a whale breaching about 100 yards away. Turns out it was a couple of Sei Whales (pronounced “Say Whales,” although I kinda like thinking it’s French “C’est Whales”) who were in about 60-80 feet of water. Which is unusual, because if a whale this size actually stood on its head, it could wave it’s flipper out of the water, like a little kid in the shallow end of the pool.

The video is a little shaky, because I’m shooting it with a long zoom from a handheld Canon 60D from the pitching bowsprit of a catamaran, as we chase after the whales.

We were all just ecstatic over seeing these giant creatures moseying along. The best we can figure out is that they eat krill & small fish, and the unusual water temperatures this year, that have also brought so very many Blue Whales so close to the coast, also have attracted the Sei Whales … maybe the same thing that’s brought the Risso’s Dolphins in?

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