Almost 30 years ago I was doing some work off Diablo Canyon NPS with the Navy. There were blue whales transiting through the area. We were standing on the lower stern deck, maybe 6 feet off the water when a blue brought her calf up to look at me and a friend as we stood on the back deck of a ship off Diablo Canyon. Eerie… and intelligent as hell! And they were sounding back and forth.

How big are they, you ask?

Opportunity shot of a blue next to probably a 60-70 foot sailboat…

Blue whale, probably female, close to 100′ long and close to 150 tons, yes TONS. It was amazing to watch them ‘spy hop’ in the outflow from the plant to see where the spit of land and the little island were before they swam back into the open ocean.

The ‘crazy’ folks were the ones that went out in the 10M Zodiacs and attached Time/Depth/Recorders (TDRs) to those monsters. They literally had to ‘stick’ them on the whales up close and personal…



TBT… — 11 Comments

  1. Awesome, in several senses. I saw some young humpback males, a fraction the size. They were great to see but this is mind-boggling.

  2. I’ve often wondered what cetacean consciousness is like. They’ve got a huge amount of brainpower devoted to auditory signal processing and interpretation. For example, I suspect that they don’t have much privacy from one another.

  3. What kind of work/what agency were you doing?

    I lived in Morro Bay for several decades. I then moved to Cayucos for another decade or more. I know those waters well.

    BTW: inside near shore, the seas get ‘lumpy’, probably due to the bottom contour. Its best to transit the area several miles further off if possible. There are also subsurface ‘oil pools’ collected in depressions along that section of coast. They are natural seeps composed of ancient asphaltum constantly replenished. For some reason, the bottom fish love it. Some real whoppers pulled out of there.

    One day I was perched 25 feet above the waterline on a 95′ boat. I spied a blue whale off the port bow. As we passed abeam, I made note the whale measured about 15 feet forward the bow and another ten aft the transom.

  4. I think I answered my own question. IIRC, that was one of the areas the Navy chose to conduct acoustic testing. It has long been up in the air to what extent the testing messed with cetacea.

  5. Ed- They were ‘glued’ on for 48 hours…LOL

    PK- That they were/are!

    Peter- Smart. They communicate over literally hundreds of miles, and do many things one doesn’t expect.

    R- Good point. Yes, that was what we were doing. 10 of the top biologists/marine mammal experts in the world were involved. I was a gopher…LOL And far as results, there were no observable impacts on behavior if I remember the write up correctly. They responded more to the ship moving than anything else.

  6. I used to listen to them on the boat’s passive sonar array. If we were down among them, I could hear them talking to each other. (I was and still am convinced that they actually speak an intelligent language.) It was a language of clicks and pings. I would hear one on the starboard side, and he would be answered by another one on the port side. The conversation would go back and forth. They were probably talking about us.