in Monterey Bay begins the start of a new and productive season in the
seas. Spring winds have created intense upwelling of cold nutrient-rich
water and with the sun's fuel, microscopic plants and animals flourish,
providing abundant food for the larger animals of the Bay. Humpback Whales
feed on tons of schooling anchovies, Blue Whales arrive to feed along
the canyon edge on millions of krill each day, dolphins frolic by the
hundreds, and the top predators -- killer whales -- periodically cruise
through the Bay looking for marine mammal prey. Shearwaters, seabirds
known for their tremendous ability to fly effortlessly across thousands
of miles of ocean by soaring with the winds, arrive to the Bay by the
thousands. The majestic albatross, with a 6' wingspan, flies to the Bay
from Hawaii. It's feeding season in the Bay and the diversity and abundance
of life in Monterey Bay is one of nature's most spectacular events.
Monterey Bay is situated on the central California coast and is known
for its vast submarine canyon, the largest and deepest on the West Coast
and the only one that begins nearshore. Because of this canyon, deep-water
species of marine mammals and seabirds are found close to shore. This
allows for incredible viewing opportunities on a day's whale watch trip.
As marine biologist and naturalist for Monterey Bay Whale Watch I spend
over 200 days a year observing this bounty of life in the Bay. Every day
is different because I never know how the day's events will unfold. I
remind the passengers that we are out in nature looking for wild animals
on an adventure that is often the highlight of a vacation in the area.
Some are so awestruck by the wildlife that they consider the trip a memorable
life experience. Summer is my favorite time at sea, despite the cooler
temperatures and frequent fog.
I've been spending the last 15 years working on Monterey Bay, the Humpback
Whale has become one of my favorite animals. I now can recognize many
of them by their distinctive marks on the underside of their tail flukes
and dorsal fins and some have names such as Hookfin, Shred, Roper and
Earl. As part of our research in collaboration with Cascadia Research,
a non-profit group, we document behaviors and identify all the whales.
favorite days are during encounters with "friendly" Humpback Whales. Endangered
whales, Humpbacks were nearly hunted to extinction worldwide but after
nearly 30 years of protection they often show their curious nature and
approach our boat. The whales spyhop, roll on their sides as we look into
their eyes, and seemingly blow on the people as everyone gets covered
in whale breath. Humpbacks are also one of the most animated whales as
they occasionally breach, tail slap, roll belly up and crash their side
flippers onto the water.
Blue Whale, the largest animal ever to live on earth, reaching lengths
of 100' and 250 tons, feeds on 4 tons or 40 millions krill (small shrimp-like
animal) each day. The California coast boasts the largest population of
Blue Whales on earth, once numbering in the hundreds of thousands and
now down to 10,000 worldwide. Close to 2,200 Blue Whales feed off the
California coast each summer and fall. Monterey's submarine canyon is
a prime feeding area for these mammoths. People come from all over the
world at this time for a chance to see the Blues.
find the smaller animals just as amazing! Six kinds of dolphins frequent
the area, from the most acrobatic of all, Pacific White-Sided Dolphins,
to the largest, Risso's Dolphins, which feed on deep-sea squid. Often
swarms of beautifully colored jellyfish drift with the currents with an
occasional Leatherback Sea Turtle feeding on them. Sea Otters and Harbor
Seals rest and feed in the thick kelp forests nearshore. Ocean sunfish,
albacore tuna, and blue sharks cruise the outer waters.
most intelligent of the whales, Killer Whales travel through in family
pods while on the hunt for prey. Even the Blue Whale isn't safe from these
It's hard to imagine that Monterey is just a short drive from the populated
cities of the Bay area. Many people living in the area don't even realize
we can go out on a day trip, similar to an African safari, and witness
such spectacular events of nature. As for myself, watching these animals
along with the reactions of people of all ages experiencing ocean life
for the first time is the reason I will continue to head out into the
Bay on many more new adventures.
Learn more about our Whale Watching Trips and
the marine animals of Monterey Bay.