Last October, I traveled to a different world. I went whale watching in Monterey Bay with John Muir Laws and the Nature Journal Club. It was an amazing day. Sanctuary Cruises, with their small, bio-diesel powered boat, took us out into the middle of the Bay, to what felt like a completely different planet. Humpback whales had been feeding there on anchovies all summer. The sea lions would attach schools of anchovy in a frenzy, then the whales would join in around the edges. It was a bad day to be an anchovy.
At times, we could see three groups of whales spouting or breaching at the same time: one group close to us, another a little ways away, and a third near the horizon. Along with the humpbacks, we saw Risso’s dolphins, sea lions by the hundreds, common murres, and even a shearwater or two.
Because this was the Nature Journal Club, and the intent was to sketch nature, I didn’t even bring my camera. Instead, we sketched, sometimes furiously. My sketches turned out to be more like gesture drawings. What I couldn’t capture on paper were the smells—sometimes we smelled fish, sometimes whale breath (a bit like stale beer, mixed with fish).
From what I’m hearing, the humpbacks continue in Monterey Bay again this year. Is it the recovery of the population since we stopped hunting them? Or is it climate change that has brought them closer to the shore? Bay Nature had an article about the humpback populations in the Bay again this year—it might be ocean currents or the periodic peak in anchovy populations. Whatever the cause, I’m grateful I had the chance to see the gathering last year.
Have you been whale-watching lately? What did you see? Leave a comment, below, and let us know.