Yesterday’s trip was also a great success. With over 100 4th and 5th graders aboard the Dana Pride, we set out of Dana Point Harbor at 10:19 a.m. with the tide coming in, the water 61 degrees, and some large swells coming in from the W/NW.

Right off the Dana Point headlands, where we have seen so many whales already this week, we spotted two northbound gray whales. Here’s our track. You can see where we picked up the whales’ path (noted by the arrowed waypoint) and followed them North.

We were in slightly deeper water (123 fathoms) than we were for Thursday’s sightings. The students enjoyed working together to monitor the whales’ behavior and time their breathing. These whales weren’t as long-winded as some of the others we’d observed. Their average “long” dive was only 1 min. 35 sec. These dives were separated by a few short dives at the surface (usually 3-4) that only lasted 15-30 seconds or so. Our sighting forms are below.

One whale, in particular, had a really conspicuous white patch near its left dorsal ridge (see above). These natural marking make it easy for scientists to identify individual whales and compare them to catalogs of other photo-identified whales. Using this method, we can tell if a whale has been sighted before, and if so, when and where. This information is useful in helping us determine the extent to which whales of different populations interact and whether the same whale uses the same route from year-to-year when migrating or within the same year going to and from, among other things.

We monitored these whales until 10:51, as they traveled at an average speed of 4.09 mph. At that point we felt we had sufficiently sampled respiration patterns and behavior to contribute to our data set, so we decided to move on.

It wasn’t long before we caught sight of some other whales — toothed whales — a bit farther offshore. As it turns out, it was one of the largest pods of offshore bottlenose dolphins we’ve seen! And they were a playful pod to boot; thanks to Capt. Tommy who revved up the engines on the Pride, the scholars from Kinoshita got a dolphin show like they’d never seen. The dolphins seemed to be enjoying it too! Dolphins enjoy surfing behind the large waves produced by the boat wake. They approached the boat and surfed the waves, leaping and breaching… the students aboard were stoked. Check out the photos below, I think they speak for themselves.

We wrapped up at 11:38, with data on two gray whales and some memorable moments with dolphins.

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