Rare Sighting on Whale Watching Tour
What began as a beautiful Southern California day for a whale watching trip, suddenly became a once in a lifetime experience for all those aboard the Oceanside Adventure’s catamaran on Friday, November 4th.
1st Mate, Joe Tripiciano, recalls the events that happened during this extraordinary cruise:
Our 12pm trip provided a first time experience for both the Captain and myself: the sighting of a humpback whale and her newborn calf. We first spotted the pair about three miles North of Oceanside Harbor, and three miles off the shore of USMC Base, Camp Pendleton. Typically, we spot a whale’s vapor plume long before the whale itself. However, it was the mother’s large foot print – the slick spot on the surface created by the displacement of water by her fluke – that first caught our attention. When the mother did come up for a breath it was obvious that this was easily the largest humpback we’d seen all summer.
We changed course to follow the whale. Each of her vapor plumes were very pronounced, indicative of the type of deep breaths that follow a deeper dive, yet she maintained an unusual cycle of only two breaths per surfacing. Once she finished her short breathing cycle we spotted the extremely small calf she had in tow. The tiny whale’s dimensions, between ten and twelve feet in length (similar in size and weight to a bottlenose dolphin) led us to believe that we had stumbled upon a brand new addition to the humpback population. Its exceptionally small size meant that we were able to catch a glimpse of the whales face the same way we do with dolphins when they come up for air. We even witnessed a few breathing cycles of the mother where she came up right beneath the calf as to aid it to the surface with the top her head so that it could breath.
Our newborn’s breathing cycle was much shorter than the mother’s. For every two breaths the mother would take, at approximately 8 minute intervals, the calf would only stay down for about a minute. It’s short, white pectoral fins were clearly visible from the surface. Their pace had been considerably slow and we can only assume it was in order to compensate for the smaller whale’s recent introduction to the ocean. We clocked them at 1.5 knots (nearly two miles an hour) as they swam down the coast in 50 fathoms (300 feet) of water. We also observed the calf emerging on either side of its mother over the twenty minutes we were able to follow them. While it’s only speculation, the alternating pattern of movement suggests that we were watching the calf come up for air between nursing sessions.
Needless to say, the entire event was as uniquely entertaining for ourselves as it was for the passengers on board. Watching an animal the size of our vessel dwarf her newly born offspring (who in turn dwarfs even NBA athletes) was a very special and unexpected surprise.
Oceanside Adventures Luxury Cruises offers daily, year-round whale watching and dolphin tours from Oceanside Harbor providing the perfect adventure for anyone and everyone that loves the ocean or the wildlife they may encounter! Tickets can also be purchased at the California Welcome Center – Oceanside.