Saw the Southern California pod of killer whales (orcas) today. It was a beautiful day. Sunny, clear with a flat ocean.
I was excited to take the trip. The orcas are unique in this area and it was a treat to see them, but my biggest desire in taking the trip was to see the big whales; humpbacks and greys. As we headed toward the open ocean, we could see just below the horizon a few big whales blowing. I was thrilled. I have seen whales, once from quite close, but I didn’t have a camera then, so I was eager to see more.
But we’re not going to go toward the grey whales, they are on the left and we are headed to the right. Oh, apparently we have to go see the orcas first because we are privileged to have aboard one of the local killer whale experts. She has been studying this pod for a number of years and ran about the boat spouting names and details and statistics, pushing her way through the crowd to get the best position for great photos. She was far more focused on the whales, than she was with us passengers.
The whales had just eaten (seagulls floating on the surface nibbling little bits of seal) and it was the perfect time to see them, since after eating they relax and play. Mommy, two daughters, and two males who hung out further from the boat. They sure put on a show for us, we saw an orca breech 3-4 times, right next to the boat. I don’t know if it was one whale that jumped four times, or if there were four different ones, but it was quite impressive to see. It was wild to be so close to these guys! We’re only about 15 feet above them! After about an hour I started to get restless. People had had plenty of opportunities for photos, and I thought we should go check on the other whales. No dice. We sat there another 1/2 hour mostly watching seagulls, terns, cormorants, and several pelicans. Which was nice, since I’m a birdwatcher. But you can only take so many photos of a pelican.
At last, they announce we are turning around. Soon we are zipping through the water, not looking at anything any more. Everybody sat around sharing their photos, and commenting on the trip. There wasn’t even a hint at them slowing down or turning toward where the grey whales were sighted.
All in all a good day, even if I couldn’t get a decent photo to save my life. I am not a skilled photography by any stretch. If I am facing into the sun I cannot see anything in my viewfinder. No one really knows why I can’t, other people have little trouble with the screen. Somehow, though, it is just darkness when I try to shoot. Plus being short, it was pretty tricky to see around the crowds at the rail. Sometimes I could crouch low and shoot between the railing, but I got more photos of the railing than anything else. I spent some of my time holding my camera over my head, finger on the shutter and aim as best I could figure. Not the most effective technique; I got lots of pictures of blue. Sometimes the ocean. Sometimes the sky. Very pretty in their own way, but not the shots I’d hoped for.
Am I wrong to feel sort of gypped? The day was wonderful and I feel grateful to have been able to have this close encounter with these beautiful animals, yet I feel quite let down that I didn’t really get to see anything else, really. We were promised a view of a variety of sea life, and we did see; two kinds of dolphins, some seals and an otter-ever so briefly as we raced toward the pod of orcas. No time for photos or a good look. The boat didn’t even slow.