Ocean of Hope

Guest Post-Whale Watching: Southern California Style!

Humpback whale mother & calf
Humpback whale mother & calf flukes photo by: Vaishali Shah

My name is Vaishali Shah and I am a volunteer Naturalist for the Cabrillo Whalewatch Program sponsored by the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium and American Cetacean Society Los Angeles Chapter.

I have been a volunteer for 5 years and it has been an amazing experience. Currently we have over 100 volunteers who join the whale watch boats on their daily tours from December to April. They educate the public on the variety of marine life found in the Santa Monica Bay, CA.

These months (winter and spring) are when the Pacific Gray whale migrates from Alaska to Baja, Mexico and back again. Being right in the migration path, whale watching boats rarely have go out more than 2-3 miles to see these amazing animals. This particular season has been an epic year for gray whale counting. All along the west coast of US, people count the number of gray whales going past. Volunteers, including Whalewatch naturalists, take part in this activity at the Point Vicente Interpretative Center in Palos Verdes, CA as part of the Gray whale census that lasts from 1st December to April, dawn to dusk every day.

This year has been a record year for the Southbound migration of gray whales as 1900 whales have been counted. This is an all time high in the 32 year-old census. This made for many exciting whale watch trips. Each trip lasts for 3 hours and we would see anywhere between 10-16 whales at the peak of migration. This year was fantastic for me as I got to witness my first breaching whale, (when the whale comes right out of the water and splashes down) a truly breath-taking experience.

The captains of the boats are extremely sensitive to the behavior of the whales and will respect them by keeping their distance. By law all vessels, including paddle boarders, have to stay at least 100 yards away from any whale. On numerous occasions, the captain has shut off the boat engine only for the whale to approach and check us out! One time a Humpback whale came so close, I got covered in whale snot!

We see many other types of whales too. Southern California has a variety of different species. This year in the bay we have had resident humpbacks including a mother and calf, and finback whales (the 2nd largest animal in the ocean). There are already sightings of blue whales (the largest animal known to have lived), which usually come to visit us in summertime to feed. Every now and then we get the very rare chance to see orcas, pilot whales, false killer whales and even sperm whales have been sighted.

Common dolphins seen while whale watching
Common Dolphins photo by: Vaishali Shah

The whales with their gigantic size are what people come to see on the whale watch, but it is often the smaller cetacean species that make the trip worthwhile! Dolphins. There are up to 5 species of dolphins in Southern California and the most well known being bottlenose dolphin (Flipper was one). However, my favorite are the common dolphins. On a good day these animals will jump, leap, tail slap and bow-ride the boat. They can be seen in mega pods of thousands. They come close to the boat. It is truly something when you look down into the eye of a wild dolphin.

Last but not least, a typical whale watch is never complete without seeing California Sea Lions. Whether they are resting on a buoy or porpoising behind the boat, children and adults love them. How could you not with those big surly eyes!

Hope you have enjoyed a brief glimpse of a whale watch trip in Santa Monica Bay.

This is a link to the Cabrillo Whalewatch Program Facebook page, come join us!

I also take photographs on the trips, you can buy
matted prints at my Etsy Store: CreatureCurious

Guest Post: Lloyd Figgins on Rowing the Atlantic Ocean

Lloyd Figgins ocean rowing
Lloyd Figgins rowing across the Atlantic Ocean

Rowing the Atlantic Ocean – one man’s journey of a lifetime

Lloyd Figgins is an Adventurer with many years of expedition experience, and the lure of a new challenge is never far away for Lloyd. In December 2011, with his rowing partner, David Whiddon, he embarked on a two-man expedition to row 3,200 miles across the Atlantic Ocean. During their mission, Lloyd collected data about the marine life that he encountered.

Here, Lloyd shares with us some of his experiences of his time on the ocean, and his reflections on the vulnerability of marine wildlife, and our responsibility to protect it.


I wanted to undertake some research that would benefit scientific understanding of the marine environment. We had a couple of advantages on this front: We would be travelling away from the main shipping lanes, so we could record sightings of marine life that otherwise might not be captured and we were also travelling slower than most other vessels, so would have more time to identify species.

Our first visitor was a Kemp’s Ridley turtle. It’s worth noting that six of the seven species of marine turtle are classified as threatened with extinction and three species are considered critically endangered, the Hawksbill, Leatherback and our little Kemp’s Ridley. We were therefore delighted that in this particular area just off the Moroccan coast we saw lots of turtles including one huge adult leatherback.

The only species of jellyfish we encountered was the Portuguese man o’war. It was a striking creature, but they pack a nasty sting. We always made sure we had a good look for them before going overboard for a swim.

The other thing we kept a close eye out for were fins. Seeing those would definitely cause us to postpone any overboard activities!

About 500 miles off the Moroccan coast we were visited by a 3.5-metre (11.5 ft) short-fin Mako shark, who followed the boat for a while before deciding against having an ocean rower for dinner. It was only when I got back to the UK that I discovered that between 1980 and 2010 there had been 42 recorded attacks by Mako sharks on humans.

A few weeks later we spotted another shark following the boat and this we were able to positively identify as a Thresher shark. Both Thresher and Mako sharks are considered vulnerable to extinction, so being able to record these sightings was satisfying.

About a week into the row we were visited by our first pod of dolphins. They are the most remarkable creatures and they seemed as curious about us as we were about them. From every direction they appeared – Atlantic Spotted Dolphins! They were swimming at the speed of the boat and looking up at us from just a few feet below the surface.

Finally, we were lucky enough to spot exceptionally rare pygmy killer whales, which, despite their name, are in fact dolphins. Little is known about them, but it is thought that a number of factors have caused a 30% global decline in their numbers over three generations.

It was a privilege to have such close interactions with so many species and it’s encouraging to know that the data we collected with be distributed to the scientific community.

Lloyd can be reached at www.lloydfiggins.com, twitter @lloydfiggins, Facebook www.facebook.com/LloydFiggins

Guest Post: 5 Most Dangerous Sea Creatures

sea wasp
Box Jellyfish photo from Wikipedia

Author Bio: Alina Jones is a content writer. She is a parent of two kids.
Her interests are Films, Travel, Entertainment, Technology and Eco Living. She is a professional blogger from London and has written many articles on Entertainment, Finance and Health. She is now doing research on uk border agency contact.

Sailing on the deep seas is one of life’s pleasures. However, one needs to consider taking security measures as there are numerous dangers that lurk in the sea. The sea harbors some of the most dangerous animals on earth. The 5 most dangerous sea creatures are: the box jellyfish, the saltwater crocodile, the blue-ringed octopus, the great white shark and the stonefish.

The Box Jellyfish
-Is also known as the sea wasp.
-This creature is transparent so it is hard to see coming.
-It is deemed the most dangerous of all sea creatures.
-It uses its tentacles to sting venom into its prey.
-Can kill a higher number of people than sharks, crocodiles and the stone-fish combined. One species has killed 64 people since 1883.
-Its venom kills in 2 to 5 minutes.

The Saltwater Crocodile
-Is the largest of all the reptiles in the world.
-They are found in Northern Australia, Eastern India and South East Asia.
-They are opportunist s, which means that they feed on anything that presents itself. They kill their prey by biting, ripping them apart, and then swallowing them.
-They are very swift even on land.

The Blue-ringed Octopus
-Is very small and grows up to about 8 inches in length.
-Its venom works by causing paralysis and breathing difficulties. It can kill a human in about five minutes, and has enough venom to kill up to 30 people.
-There is no known anti- venom for this creature.
-It only bites when and if provoked. The bite may not be noticeable. Some people only realize that they have been bitten when they feel numbness in the area.
-It is mostly active at night. During the day, it burrows in sand.

The Great White Shark
-Is the largest predatory fish in the sea.
-It feeds on high energy prey such as marine mammals, including elephant seals. When they bite, they wait for the prey to bleed to death, bite them, and then swallow them.
-After they feed, they may live for up to 3 months without the need to feed again.
-They attack humans out of curiosity and humans may die from their injuries, not because the shark wants to feed on them.
-They are usually active during the day.

The Stonefish
-It grows up to about 12 inches long.
-It is deemed to be the most poisonous fish in the world.
-It is a master at camouflaging . This makes it very dangerous as you may not notice it until you touch it.
-It lives along the coast in shallow waters and often resembles a rock.
-Its venom is in its sharp dorsal fins. The dorsal fins are so sharp that they can penetrate a shoe.

Guest post: Beach Chair Scientist

Ann McElhatton blogs at Beach Chair Scientist. Follow her on Twitter @bcsanswers and Facebook “Beach Chair Scientist”

Ann has defined what it means to be a 21st century armchair scientist. She finds creating opportunities that make marine science accessible to the general public (those without science degrees or in the science field day-to-day) to be a very rewarding experience.

The following pictures are 5 Favorite Finds of an Atlantic Coast Beachcomber:

Beach Chair Scientist

Beach Chair Scientist

Beach Chair Scientist

Beach Chair Scientist

Beach Chair Scientist