Special Sighting: Dana Point Whale Watching

Shark searchin

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All sightings took place on June 19, 2017

My hometown is the beautiful city of Dana Point, California. In May and June, Dana Point and the rest of Southern California were getting quite a bit of press for sightings of juvenile great white sharks. On a weekend at home, our family went shark searching with Dana Wharf Whale Watching

Although my sister and father insisted they saw a shark breach, the guides didn't spot anything that trip and gave us passes to come back whale watching instead. 

We returned two days later for a 10am whale watching trip, the first of the day. I had not been whale watching in Dana Point since I was very little, and I found myself comparing the experience to being out on the windswept sea in San Francisco. The water for this trip was flat and there was very little wind, but the same coastal fog kept the sun at bay. 

 California sea lions rest on a buoy.

California sea lions rest on a buoy.

We spotted some spouts from a mile off, a few miles west of the Headlands. They looked like humpback spouts to me; as we approached my suspicions were confirmed. 

We had a total of four humpbacks within 500 yards. A few other boats were watching the same whale, most of which had come from Long Beach or LA. The whales appeared to be feeding, and there was a good amount of bird activity. After a few minutes, we also noticed common dolphins feeding with the whales, and within a few minutes they were checking out our boat. The guides mentioned that these whales were probably opportunistically feeding on their way up to the Farallon Islands; I wondered if I would see the same individuals in a few weeks.

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We watched the humpbacks do several fluke dives and one breach which I barely caught on camera, then turned around to head home. As we headed out, I noticed a Minke whale surface once 200 yards from our boat before disappearing. I watched our stern, hoping to catch another glimpse, but it was gone. 

I submitted my fluke photos to Happy Whale, which can help whale researchers identify and track individual whales over time. They informed me that one of the individuals I saw is named Chief. Check out the map of where this whale been swimming since I last saw it. You can submit your own fluke photos at happywhale.com!

 Chief waves good bye!

Chief waves good bye!